Illustration of Kate Hardcastle in high society attire on the left, and dressed as a barmaid on the right

She Stoops to Conquer

by Oliver Goldsmith

Start Free Trial

Act 2

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Act 2 takes place inside the Hardcastle manor. Mr. Hardcastle enters, followed by a few servants. He reminds them to be on their best behavior for Marlow’s visit. He hears a coach arriving and exits to receive Marlow and his entourage. The servants exit as well.

Marlow and Hastings, led by a servant, enter. Marlow remarks that the house is a fine-looking place, to which Hastings adds that it is common for mansions to be converted into inns after the master falls to misfortune. The two then talk about Marlow’s travels and how, for all his worldly experience, he has yet to learn about women. Marlow confesses that he is comfortable with women of low station but falters in the presence of “modest” women. He reveals that he plans to break off his engagement with Kate. Mr. Hardcastle then enters.

Under the impression that Mr. Hardcastle is an innkeeper, Marlow and Hastings dismiss Mr. Hardcastle’s attempts at conversation and bluntly ask for refreshments. Mr. Hardcastle is appalled at the impudence of the two young men, and in turn Marlow and Hastings are annoyed at how overbearing Mr. Hardcastle is for an innkeeper. The two then ask for the “bill of fare”—that is, the menu for supper—and make fun of how upscale and elaborate the dishes listed are. Mr. Hardcastle takes offense at this but hides his reaction and exits to ready their supper. Marlow exits as well.

Constance enters. She and Hastings are surprised yet delighted to see each other. Hastings then learns from Constance that they are not at an inn but at the Hardcastle manor itself. Constance surmises that they must have been misled by the mischievous Tony. Hastings then implores for Constance to keep this information from Marlow, who will surely flee from embarrassment if he learns of their blunder. Marlow then enters.

Hastings successfully convinces Marlow that, out of pure coincidence, Constance and Kate just happen to be staying at the inn as well. Kate then enters.

Hastings introduces Kate and Marlow to each other, and the latter immediately finds himself flustered and unable to speak clearly. Nevertheless, the two try to make conversation. Marlow apologizes for not having had much experience with women, but Kate assures him that she does not find his company tiresome. Their interaction ends on an awkward note, as Marlow finds an excuse to cut it short. The two exit.

Tony and Constance enter. Mrs. Hardcastle and Hastings follow, chatting about the latest trends from town. Hastings subtly makes fun of Mrs. Hardcastle’s provincial sensibilities and lack of taste. She does not pick up on his criticisms and is under the impression that Hastings dotes on her. Mrs. Hardcastle then calls for Tony and Constance. She intends to introduce them to Hastings, not knowing that Constance and Hastings are lovers. Tony, however, refuses to obey his mother, and the two engage in a heated argument, after which Hastings offers to talk some sense into Tony. Mrs. Hastings concedes and exits with Constance.

After questioning Tony and making sure he does not have feelings for Constance, Hastings confesses that he is Constance’s lover and that they plan to elope. Tony is delighted by the prospect of seeing Constance gone and so vows to help Hastings with his plan.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Act 1


Act 3