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She Stoops to Conquer

by Oliver Goldsmith

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Student Question

Is She Stoops to Conquer an anti-sentimental comedy?

Quick answer:

Yes, She Stoops to Conquer is an anti-sentimental comedy because it was written as a response to the sentimental comedies of the author's time.

Expert Answers

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When She Stoops to Conquer was written in the late eighteenth century, sentimental comedies were popular. These comedies featured simple morality and earnest, if one-dimensional, characters.

Oliver Goldsmith wanted to banish sentimentality from comedy. He was more interested in getting the audience to laugh from relating to flawed, funny characters than in lecturing them. The characters in She Stoops to Conquer are all imperfect but likeable and human, allowing the humor to arise from the audience recognizing common human flaws and quirks in them.

A great example of anti-sentimental material in the play would be the plot thread with the lovers Constance and Hastings. A traditionally sentimental comedy would feature a Constance with absolutely no thought of material possessions when faced with the question of eloping with the man she loves to evade a forced marriage. She would be willing to throw every comfort away for romantic love.

Goldsmith's Constance does no such thing: when Hastings offers her his hand, she says they need to wait until she can procure her jewels, because quite unlike a sentimental heroine, she does not want to suffer poverty if she does not have to do so. This detail is truer to real life and completely devoid of sentimentality.

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