She Stoops to Conquer Suggested Essays

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Explain the meaning and significance of the title She Stoops to Conquer. Even without reading the play, the irony of the title is obvious, since the "she" in question is lowering herself in order to prove herself superior. In context of the play, the title could be argued to refer both to Kate's plan to trap Marlow and to Goldsmith's purpose of using “low comedy” to convince his audience to embrace it. The former is a good description of the irony of Kate's plan: in order to convince herself she is a worthy match for Marlow, she has to first convince him she is of a low class. However, the title also describes Goldsmith's purpose: he wishes to convince an audience to embrace this “low” or “laughing” comedy, and by indulging in it, he might convince them that it is superior to “sentimental” comedy. Regardless of which description one uses, the irony of the title expresses Goldsmith's view of humanity: while we pretend to be of impeachable high class, we all have a “low,” base side that we should celebrate rather than try to ignore.

How is Kate an example of moderation? Explain how her personality stands as the way of life Goldsmith most recommends. The play is organized into a series of conflicting philosophies: high-bred aristocrats vs. low-bred common folk; city life vs. country life; wealth vs. poverty, etc. Much of the absurdity that fuels Goldsmith's comedy comes from exploiting the way most people engage in contradictions even when they pretend to be examples of virtue. The best example is Marlow, and his bizarre contradictory attitudes towards women depending on their class. Kate stands at the center of most of these, and as such is the best depiction of Goldsmith's message. As a country girl who has spent time in town, she is an example of what Marlow calls "refined simplicity," and knowing as much as she does about humanity, is able to also enjoy and be amused by the contradictions rather than disgusted by them (as most of the elder characters are).

In what ways is Tony Lumpkin a hero in the play? Use historical/social detail to explain why this heroism is unconventional. Tony Lumpkin would traditionally have been considered nothing but comic relief. Consider most Shakespeare plays, where the poor, common characters might have wisdom, but are primarily used to comedic effect, and are rarely engaged in the main plots. Tony is presented this way initially in She Stoops to Conquer, but we quickly see that there is a great wisdom to his lifestyle, which prizes enjoyment of life over heavy considerations of it. When his parents discuss the way to live in Act I, Tony takes off quickly for the Three Pigeons, where he sings a song that expresses a desire for true life rather than the hypocrisy of overly-educated or overly-religious lifestyles. Tony perhaps has more agency than any other character in the play, setting in motion the confusions that ultimately allow everyone to be happy. The message, of which Tony is the best representative, is that by engaging in the confusions and contradictions of human nature, we can find our best happiness.

For a comedy, She Stoops to Conquer has a serious vein of commentary of class. Explain. In a traditional sentimental comedy, money would ultimately be shown to be irrelevant in the face of true love, so as to stress the characters’ virtue. Of course, the characters would have almost all been high-bred and money not a serious issue in their lives. In this play, there are characters, like Tony or Constance, who really do need money if they want a strong future. Even in what is perhaps the most cliché romantic subplot – that between Constance and Hastings – money becomes an inescapable force, and in the end they turn to the virtue of asking Hardcastle's permission not because of some innate virtue, but because they acknowledge that they will need money. In another way, Marlow's class contradictions are certainly meant to be amusing, but there is a serious criticism in the way...
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