Collection No. 65: She Stoops to Conquer, by Oliver Goldsmith

Publication Details | Synopsis | Secondary Commentary |Varieties & Dialects | Other

Publication details

Author: Goldsmith, Oliver
Author dates: 1728 (30?) - 1774
Title: She Stoops to Conquer

First played: 1773
First published: 1773, for F. Newbery. 106p.
C18th availability: Available from ECCO (1773)

Modern availability: Available from LION (1996)

Genre: Comedy / Comedy of Manners

Trend(s): Class; Gender; Popularity

Character types: Class-Crossing; Country; Innkeeper

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Marlow and Hastings are lead to the Hardcastles' house by Tony Lumpkin, who claims it is an inn. Marlow mistakes Kate Hardcastle for a barmaid; she uses this to seduce him. Hastings tries to escape with his lover Miss Neville, whom Tony Lumpkin is supposed to marry, taking her jewels along. They are apprehended. Realizing he is of age, Tony denies any attachment to Miss Neville. The couples are married.

Prologue by David Garrick / Epilogue by Dr. Johnson
Act I.
Mrs. Hardcastle tries to persuade Mr. Hardcastle to go on holiday to London; Mr. Hardcastle teases her about her age. Tony Lumpkin, Mrs. Hardcastle’s son by her first husband and whom she believes to be an invalid, arrives; he is going to the alehouse. Mrs. Hardcastle tries to detain him without success. Kate Hardcastle enters. Mr. Marlow, the young man Mr. Hardcastle has chosen to be Kate’s husband, will be arriving this evening, and Mr. Hardcastle will require Kate to dress in the old-fashioned clothing he prefers for their first meeting. Mr. Hardcastle’s description of Marlow enchants her, but she is put off by the fact that he is said to be “reserved.” Miss Neville, Kate’s friend, enters; they discuss Marlow and the fact that Mrs. Hardcastle is trying to marry Miss Neville to her repulsive son Tony. Miss Neville is instead in love with Hastings, Marlow’s friend. In the pub, Tony sings a song. Marlow and Hastings arrive; they have been lost on their way to the Hardcastles’. Tony gives them the wrong directions, then sends them to Mr. Hardcastle’s house as though it were an inn.

Act II.
Hardcastle instructs his servants in proper behaviour towards the anticipated gentlemen. Hastings and Marlow arrive at his house; they discuss Marlow’s chronic shyness with well-bred women. Hardcastle appears; they think he is a landlord, and deliberately cut him out of their conversation. They demand to see the menu for dinner and insult each dish. Miss Neville enters. Delighted to see her, Hastings wonders why she is at an inn, but soon understands their real situation. Miss Neville and Hastings plan to escape to France to be married as soon as possible, but Miss Neville first wants to secure the jewels she is supposed to inherit. They decide to not enlighten Marlow to the surroundings. Kate Hardcastle enters; supported by Hastings, Marlow is confident, but when Hastings and Miss Neville quit the room, he relapses into his former timidity. He leaves, and Kate laughs at his shyness. Hastings, Sir Tony, Mrs. Hardcastle and Miss Neville converse; Hastings commends Mrs. Hardcastle on her fashion sense. Mrs. Hardcastle makes Tony and Miss Neville stand back to back to measure their heights. Tony hurts Miss Neville and is angry with his mother. Hastings offers to talk to Tony alone. Tony agrees to help Hastings to take Miss Neville off to France in order to spare himself the awful prospect of being forced to marry her.

Act III.
Mr. Hardcastle considers Marlow ‘the most impudent piece of brass that ever spoke with a tongue.’ Kate enters dressed in plain clothing, to her father’s great approval. She has found Marlow shy and reserved. They resolve to refuse his suit unless the contradictions of his character are reconciled. Tony enters with all of Miss Neville’s jewels, which he gives to Hastings in preparation for the latter’s elopement with Miss Neville. Mrs. Hardcastle and Miss Neville discuss the jewels: not knowing that Hastings has them already, Miss Neville asks to see them. Tony enters and tells his mother to tell Miss Neville that they are lost, which she does. Mrs. Hardcastle goes to check on the jewels, and discovers that they have been removed from their hiding-place. Kate has been mistaken for a barmaid; her own maid tells her that Marlow will not recognize her. Marlow enters and is very bold to the barmaid, attempting to kiss her and calling her very pretty. In her persona as a barmaid, Kate accuses him of taking liberties with her but treating Miss Hardcastle as formally as he would a justice of the peace. He takes her hand. Mr. Hardcastle enters, and Marlow runs off. Shocked, Hardcastle tells Kate she has an hour to change his mind about Marlow’s brazen character.

Act IV.
Hastings and Miss Neville converse. Marlow’s father Sir Charles Marlow is about to arrive, and would doubtless divulge Hastings’ intentions for visiting to the family, so the two resolve to make their escape before his arrival. Hastings has given the casket of jewels to Marlow to keep safe; he has left it with the landlady, Mrs. Hardcastle. Hastings does not tell Marlow of his plans, but decides to make his escape with Miss Neville without the fortune. Hardcastle enters to reprimand Marlow for letting his servants drink. Furious at Marlow’s insolence, Hardcastle orders him to leave. Marlow begins to catch on, and, finding the barmaid, asks her whose house this is. Kate replies that it is Mr. Hardcastle’s, and says that she is a poor relation whose role it is to maintain it. Marlow is appalled at his own behaviour, and resolves to leave the girl he had taken for a barmaid alone. Kate is very impressed by him and will enlighten her father to the new developments.  Mrs. Hardcastle comes upon Miss Neville and Tony pretending to cuddle, and says to Miss Neville that she will have her jewels and that the two will be married tomorrow. Hastings sends a letter, which Mrs. Hardcastle intercepts. Tony cannot read it, so Miss Neville pretends to, but Mrs. Hardcastle takes the letter from her and reads Hastings’ plans to make off with the young lady. Marlow enters, and he and Hastings argue: Marlow accuses Hastings of not informing him of their real surroundings, while Hastings is still angry about the casket. Mrs. Hardcastle plans to take Miss Neville as quickly as possible from the house; she and Hastings bid one another a hasty goodbye. Tony awakes from a reverie and says that he has a plan to solve the problem.

Act V.
Miss Neville has been carried away by a servant, and Sir Charles Marlow has arrived, so Hastings hides himself and prepares to meet with Tony Lumpkin in the garden. Sir Charles and Hardcastle laugh about Marlow’s mistake. Because Hardcastle has seen Marlow fervently pressing Kate’s hand, he and Sir Charles assume that all is well between the lovers and that they will soon be married. Marlow enters and denies this, still believing the object of his affections to be a poor relation. The fathers ask Kate whether she has told the truth of his having courted her; she requests that they stand behind a screen and watch their next interview. Tony Lumpkin returns to meet Hastings; instead of driving Miss Neville and his mother to their destination, he has simply gone around in circles. He urges Hastings to quickly make off with Miss Neville. Mrs. Hardcastle comes out of the coach, terribly frightened. Mr. Hardcastle is taking an evening walk, and she mistakes him for a highwayman. Tony’s deception is revealed. Hastings tells Miss Neville that they should leave together immediately, but Miss Neville, tired of the forbidden love affair, prefers to ask for Mr. Hardcastle’s approval in order to make the match above-board. Marlow and Kate meet while Sir Charles and Hardcastle hide behind a screen. Marlow’s passionate words are at odds with his lukewarm description of his initial meeting with Miss Hardcastle. When he finally kneels to ask for her hand, Sir Charles and Hardcastle show themselves. His mortification is exacerbated by Kate’s teasing. Sir Charles praises Hastings, and Hardcastle agrees to let Miss Neville marry him. Hastings and Miss Neville enter. Hardcastle reveals that Tony is of age and can thus legally refuse Miss Neville, returning her fortune to her and allowing her to marry Hastings with Hardcastle’s blessing. Marlow and Kate are reconciled, and Hardcastle joins the couple’s hands.

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Secondary commentary

A) Dussinger, John A. ‘Goldsmith, Oliver (1728?–1774)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 27 May 2008.

"When he completed his second play, She Stoops to Conquer, and had similar problems as before with the theatre directors Colman and Garrick, Johnson and other friends intervened to get it produced. But even though it was not presented until late in the season, 15 March 1773, it was an immediate triumph and brought its author over £500. As in his first play Goldsmith demonstrated his aim of restoring the ‘laughing comedy’ of Farquhar and Vanbrugh after the stage had been taken over by sentimental comedy. Based on an embarrassing experience that Goldsmith underwent while still a pupil in Ireland, when he was duped into thinking the local squire's house to be an inn and ordered dinner and a night's lodging, the ‘mistakes of the night’ begin when Tony Lumpkin, the playboy of the Hardcastle family, tricks some travellers, Marlow and Hastings, into taking his home for a public house, and Kate Hardcastle carries on the jest by posing as a barmaid while conquering the hero Marlow's fears of fine ladies."

B) Hutcheson, Michael R. ‘Oliver Goldsmith: 1730?-1774’. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 336: Eighteenth-Century British Historians. Edited by Ellen J. Jenkins, Arkansas Tech University. Gale, 2007. Literature ResourceCenter. 27 May 2008.

"Goldsmith's financial windfall from The History of England was followed by another success, the staging of his play She Stoops to Conquer at Covent Garden in March 1773. Despite being performed at the end of the season, the play was an immediate critical and popular triumph and was brought back for the fall season…"

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Varieties & Dialects

Overview of varieties / dialects

The characters’ language leads to the play’s mistaken identities: Kate Hardcastle pretends to be a barmaid, Mr. Hardcastle’s hospitality causes him to be thought an innkeeper, and Marlow’s insecurity and halting speech with well-born women is juxtaposed with his passionate discourse to Kate Hardcastle as barmaid. Tony Lumpkin is an ill-educated and badly-spoken country squire. The servants’ speech connotes their lower class.

Varieties / dialects

Variety: Sir Charles Marlow
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 36: meeting with Miss Hardcastle; Marlow is shy]
It's---a disease---of the mind, madam. In the variety of tastes there must be some who wanting a relish---for---um-a-um.

[page 102]

Does this look like security. Does this look like confidence. No, Madam, every moment that shews me your merit only serves to encrease my diffidence and confusion. Here let me continue---

b.1 Orthography: “encrease”
b.2 Grammar: missing question marks
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: "The young gentleman has been bred a scholar, and is designed for an employment in the service of his country. I am told he's a man of an excellent understanding" (6).
e. Consistency of representation: consistently well-spoken, except for the above passages

Variety: Tony Lumpkin
a. Sample of dialect
[page 12]
Father-in-law has been calling me whelp, and hound, this half year. Now if I pleased, I could be so revenged upon the old grumbletonian. But then I'm afraid---afraid of what! I shall soon be worth fifteen hundred a year, and let him frighten me out of that if he can.

[page 45]
Bandbox! She's all a made up thing, mun. Ah! could you but see Bet Bouncer of these parts, you might then talk of beauty. Ecod, she has two eyes as black as sloes, and cheeks as broad and red as a pulpit cushion. She'd make two of she.

[page 93]
You shall hear. I first took them down Feather-bed-lane, where we stuck fast in the mud. I then rattled them crack over the stones of Up-and-down  Hill---I then introduc'd them to the gibbet on Heavy-tree Heath, and from that, with a circumbendibus, I fairly lodged them in the horse-pond at the bottom of the garden.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “She’d make two of she.”
b.3 Vocabulary: neologisms: “grumbletonian”; “circumbendibus”; interjections “Ecod” (very frequent), “Bandbox!”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: spoiled, ill-educated country squire
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Servants
a. Sample of dialect
[page 18]
By the laws, your worship, that's parfectly unpossible. Whenever Diggory sees yeating going forward, ecod he's always wishing for a mouthful himself.


Nor mine, for sartain.

Wauns, and I'm sure it canna be mine.

[page 70]

Please your honour, liberty and Fleet-street for ever! Tho' I'm but a servant, I'm as good as another

[page 71 ]

man. I'll drink for no man before supper, Sir, dammy! Good liquor will sit upon a good supper, but a good supper will not sit upon--- hiccup---upon my conscience, Sir.

b.1 Orthography: “yeating”, “sartain”, “dammy”, “perfectly”
b.2 Grammar
b.3 Vocabulary: “wauns”, “unpossible”
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profiles: servants
e. Consistency of representation: consistent

Variety: Kate Hardcastle as lower-class barmaid
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 60]
Nectar! nectar! that's a liquor there's no call for in these parts. French, I suppose. We keep no French wines here, Sir.

And who wants to be acquainted with you? I want no such acquaintance, not I. I'm sure you did not treat Miss Hardcastle that was here awhile ago in this obstropalous manner. I'll warrant me, before her you look'd dash'd, and kept bowing to the ground, and talk'd, for all the world, as if you was before a justice of peace.

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar, “I want no such acquaintance, not I.”; “you was”
b.3 Vocabulary: “I’ll warrant me”; doesn’t know what “nectar” means
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: well-bred Kate Hardcastle disguises herself as a lower-class but still virtuous barmaid
e. Consistency of representation: a persona only adopted when talking to Marlow. In contrast, her usual speech:
[page 58]
In the first place, I shall be seen , and that is no small advantage to a girl who brings her face to market. Then I shall perhaps make an acquaintance and that's no small victory gained over one who never addresses any but the wildest of her sex. But my chief aim is to take my gentleman off his guard, and like an invisible champion of romance examine the giant's force before I offer to combat.

Variety: Hardcastle (gentleman taken for an innkeeper)
a. Sample of dialect:
[page 22]
Gentlemen, once more you are heartily welcome. Which is Mr. Marlow? Sir, you're heartily welcome. It's not my way, you see, to receive my friends with my back to the fire. I like to give them a hearty reception in the old stile at my gate. I like to see their horses and trunks taken care of.

[page 89]
I tell you, she don't dislike you; and as I'm sure you like her---

b.1 Orthography
b.2 Grammar: “she don’t”
b.3 Vocabulary
c. Nationality: English
d. Character profile: this country gentleman is mistaken for an innkeeper
e. Consistency of representation: despite being consistent with his social role as a high-class host, Hardcastle’s language perpetuates Tony Lumpkin’s lie

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Narrative comments on varieties and dialects


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Other points of interest


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©2009 Arden Hegele