She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy play written by Oliver Goldsmith. It has been loved since it was written. When it was first performed, some people did not approve of it as it attacked the normal sort of play style at the time, which was sentimental comedy. Personally I think the play is very whimsical and funny both on stage acted and just the words used.
Sentimental comedy involved characters to be very typical, for example, the heroine was shy and romantic, the hero was brave and bold, and romance and love was above everything else. In She Stoops to Conquer Miss Neville and Hastings are in love, and they planned to elope to France, yet their plans are foiled. While Hastings wants them to get married anyway, Miss Neville is sensible and does the exact opposite of a sentimental comedy heroine, and puts money and her father's wishes first, by saying:
"MISS NEVILLE: In a moment of passion, fortune may be despised, but it ever produces a lasting repentance."
Servants were not allowed to be centre stage, but in She Stoops to Conquer a whole scene is dedicated to the servants and their incapability of being servant-like.
In sentimental comedy plays, when something unhappy happened, the general idea was to be sad, yet Marlow in She stoops to Conquer attacks this idea by commenting:
"MARLOW: Pardon me, madam. I was always willing to be amused. The folly of most people is rather an object of mirth than uneasiness."
When Hastings finally declares his love for Miss Neville to her uncle, Mr Hardcastle, Mrs Hardcastle can't take such romantic talk:
"MRS HARDCASTLE: Pshaw, pshaw, this is all but the whining end of a modern novel," modern novels were of course written in sentimental style. She is complaining about this, even though this is one of the only cases of sentimental comedy creeping into the play. This new style of play was very different to the old style, so once people got used to it they began to enjoy the more funny and light-hearted parts. These days we are used to it, but it would have been a much more boring play if there was sentimental comedy involved.
The basic plot of the play is about everyone being confused and tricked. Marlow is very shy and timid around women of the same and upper class to him, yet when talking to lower classes he is loud and often rude. Tony, Mrs Hardcastle's son, tricks Marlow and Hastings into believing that the house they were going to visit is actually a pub. They treat Mr Hardcastle like a landlord, and they wonder why he is so talkative:
"MARLOW: Well, this is the first time I ever heard of an innkeeper's philosophy."
Mr Hardcastle wants Marlow to court his daughter Kate Hardcastle. Yet when Marlow meets Kate he cannot get his words out:
"MARLOW: (Relapsing into timidity) Pardon me, madam, I-I-I-"
Kate decides to trick Marlow and dresses up like a barmaid. Suddenly, without realising she is the same person, he gets very bold:
"MARLOW: Suppose I should call for a taste, just by way of trial, of the nectar of your lips..."
She pretends to not understand he wants a kiss, and answers that they don't have any wine of that type, and then says:
"MISS HARDCASTLE: Pray, sir, keep your distance. One would think you wanted to know one's age as they do horses, by mark of mouth."
The confusion of Mr Hardcastle and Marlow is entertaining on stage, as neither knows what is going on. Marlow is totally unaware that Kate and the barmaid are the same, and Mr Hardcastle is very confused by the rudeness of Marlow and Hastings. Mrs Hardcastle was also tricked during the play, as she had always thought that Miss Neville and her son Tony were in love. Yet at the end he tells her he will not marry Miss Neville. Everyone praises him, but she ends the play with:
"MRS HARDCASTLE: My undutiful offspring," which is funny as it is the opposite of...
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