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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How does Mr. Hardcastle differ from his wife in She Stoops to Conquer?

Quick answer:

Mr. Hardcastle is different from his wife in that he is more old-fashioned.

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From the first scene of the play, the Hardcastles are shown in conflict over the question of their preferences. Mrs. Hardcastle loves the city. She enjoys going into town and meeting with people. She also grumbles about the state of their mansion, claiming it looks more like an inn than a regular house and that because of this, no one comes to visit them.

Mr. Hardcastle prefers the countryside, specifically because he likes everything old-fashioned. He finds the fashions of the city foolish, dismissing them as "fopperies." He cannot even stand to see his daughter Kate in the newest fashions, only permitting her to wear them during the day so long as she agrees to wear old-fashioned clothes in the evening. Ultimately, Mr. Hardcastle is also less vain and greedy than his wife, taking pleasure in simpler things, as he expresses in the play's opening scene:

I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine; and I believe, Dorothy (taking her hand), you'll own I have been pretty fond of an old wife.

When it comes to this difference of opinion, the play takes Mr. Hardcastle's side on the matter. The city becomes associated with decadence and greed, as illustrated by Mrs. Hardcastle's willingness to force Constance to marry her son Tony for the sake of keeping the young woman's inheritance within the family. It is the country-bred characters like Tony who prove cleverest of all.

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