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

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Justify the title She Stoops to Conquer.

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The significance of the title She Stoops to Conquer is that upper-class Kate Hardcastle wins the hand of the shy Charles Marlow by pretending to be a barmaid.

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Kate Hardcastle knows that the wealthy Sir Charles Marlow is shy and tongue-tied around women of his own class, but a completely different person, free and easy, around lower-class women. In order to encourage him to woo her, she pretends to be a barmaid. If he believes Kate is a...

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barmaid, he will feel comfortable with her and able to be his more confident self. She "stoops" or pretends to assume a lower position on the social scale, in order to "conquer" or win love and marriage.

I am not sure what "critically justify" means, but the title is clever and apt, encapsulating the key concepts of the play. It's an elegant eighteenth century title, with a sense of paradox created in the balancing and juxtaposing of seemingly opposite images: stooping and conquering. It leads one to question how a person could conquer through stooping, and as such, reveals that power manifests in different forms. The title could also be "critically justified" as highlighting how often we react to people in terms of their outward status rather than their inward selves. Kate is Kate whether a barmaid or a lady, but Marlow, at least initially, can only respond to the outer wrapping. The play is still remarkably relevant and funny today, showing that we yet allow status to intimidate us.  

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The title of this novel refers to the "stooping down" of Kate Hardcastle from her position in high society to the position as a barmaid.  She does this in order to test the feelings of Marlow, to make sure that he loves her for herself and not for her money.  In the end, she gets what she wants, and proves a point.  She learns that Marlow's feelings are genuine and demonstrates that love is not controlled by social position.  By "stooping down", she conquered society.

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What is the significance of the title She Stoops to Conquer?

In this comic play, the title character, Charles Marlow, is conflicted about his role as a gentleman, with its constant pressure to perform and meet rigid standards of both manners and masculinity. As a result of feeling uncomfortable, and especially feeling under pressure to act the role of the courtly lover and find a wife, Marlow becomes timid, tongue-tied, and self-conscious when he is around upper-class women.

However, the timidity disappears around lower-class women. Not feeling under pressure to meet a standard, he can be himself with the servant class. Kate Hardcastle, herself of the upper classes, realizes this when Charles is misled to mistake her home for an inn, her father for an innkeeper, and herself for a barmaid. She then pretends to be a barmaid, because this way, she can get to know the real Marlow and he can get to know her under relaxed circumstances.

The phrase "she stoops to conquer" contains a witty oxymoron or seeming contradiction. Conquering someone implies overpowering them or standing bigger and taller, not stooping. Stooping implies servility. Yet in this case, the so-called servant becomes the master or mistress of the day by using her wits to woo and win the man she wants to marry. The title suggests that sometimes, people need to bend or strategize to get what they want.

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