She Stoops to Conquer Summary
by Oliver Goldsmith

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She Stoops to Conquer Summary

She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith is a 1771 play about Marlow and Hastings, two suitors who are tricked into believing the home of their respective conquests is an inn. Both behave badly.

  • Marlow and Hastings travel from London to the Hardcastle home as suitors: Marlow is engaged to Mr. Hardcastle's daughter, Kate, and Hastings hopes to woo Mrs. Hardcastle's ward, Constance.
  • Marlow and Hastings are tricked into believing the Hardcastle home is an inn.

  • Marlow and Hastings behave boorishly, and Kate disguises herself as a bar-maid to gauge Marlow's character. 
  • Marlow and Hastings are embarrassed by their behavior, but both couples marry.

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Summary

She Stoops to Conquer follows the mishaps of a single night in which young suitors, Marlow and Hastings, are led to the Hardcastle household under false assumptions.

At the beginning of the play, Mr. Hardcastle informs his daughter, Kate, that his friend Sir Charles Marlow has a son—also named Charles Marlow—who is to visit. He tells her, too, that he is interested in seeing Kate and Marlow marry. Kate, for the most part, is enthusiastic about the handsome Marlow but expresses doubts upon hearing of his shyness around upper-class women.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Hardcastle has been attempting to force her son, Tony, and her niece, Constance, into marriage. Kate remarks that this must be due to her mother's fixation on Constance’s fortune. In any event, her brother, Tony, is completely disinterested in Constance. Constance divulges the name of her suitor to Kate: George Hastings, an inseparable friend of Marlow’s.

At the pub, Tony overhears that Marlow and Hastings are lost. Tony schemes to repay some insults from his stepfather by intercepting the two and directing them to his father's house under the pretense that it is an inn, implying that the real Hardcastle home is still a great distance away.

Back at the Hardcastle household, Mr. Hardcastle is directing his servants how to behave. Marlow and Hastings arrive, under the impression that the Hardcastle manor is an inn. Mr. Hardcastle attempts to entertain his guests but, being perceived as a lowly innkeeper, is largely ignored and rebuffed, much to his surprise.

After Marlow asks Mr. Hardcastle if he can see his room, Hastings is left alone, and Constance overhears him referring to the house as an inn. She disabuses him of the notion, deducing that he must have been tricked by Tony. Hastings then asks Constance to elope with him at once, but she is hesitant to leave without possession of her jewels. She promises to go with him as soon as she has them. Hastings tells Constance that, in the meanwhile, they ought to tell Marlow nothing, lest he be driven by embarrassment to suddenly flee from the place.

Hastings tells Marlow that, by coincidence, their mistresses Kate and Constance have just alighted at the same inn. Alone with Kate, Marlow is consumed by nervousness to the point of stumbling upon his sentences and he scarcely looks at Kate in the face. He promptly makes an excuse then leaves. Kate remarks that if he weren't so nervous she would actually like him.

Tony, Hastings, Constance, and Mrs. Hardcastle return. Constance tries to flirt with Tony while he pulls away. Hastings remarks that the two already seem like a married couple, but Tony protests. Hastings asks permission from Mrs. Hardcastle to rectify Tony's opinion, and so Constance and Mrs. Hardcastle exit. Hastings admits to Tony that he is in love with Constance and enlists his help. Tony gladly agrees.

Meanwhile, Kate has switched to her more old-fashioned evening wear and meets her father. They compare their opinions of Marlow, both of which are unfavorable. Mr. Hardcastle finds Marlow overly impudent, whereas Kate finds him overly timid. Kate convinces her father to give Marlow a second chance to produce an explanation for these contradictory impressions.

Hastings is nearly ready to leave. Tony arrives and gives him the casket of Constance's jewels. Meanwhile,...

(The entire section is 1,310 words.)