She Stoops to Conquer; or The Mistakes of a Night


She Stoops to Conquer, comedy in five acts by Oliver Goldsmith, produced and published in 1773. This comic masterpiece mocked the simple morality of sentimental comedies. Subtitled The Mistakes of a Night, the play is a lighthearted farce that derives its charm from the misunderstandings which entangle the well-drawn characters.

Mr. Hardcastle plans to marry his forthright daughter Kate to the bashful son of his friend Sir Charles Marlow. Mrs. Hardcastle wants her recalcitrant son Tony Lumpkin to marry her ward Constance Neville, who is in love with Marlow’s friend Hastings. Humorous mishaps occur when Tony dupes Marlow and Hastings into believing that Mr. Hardcastle’s home is an inn. By posing as a servant, Kate wins the heart of Marlow, who is uncomfortable in the company of wellborn women but is flirtatious with barmaids. Through various deceptions, Tony releases himself from his mother’s clutches and unites Constance with Hastings.


She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy by Anglo-Irish[1] author Oliver Goldsmith that was first performed in London in 1773. The play is a favourite for study by English literature and theatre classes in Britain and the United States. It is one of the few plays from the 18th century to have an enduring appeal, and is still regularly performed today. It has been adapted into a film several times, including in 1914 and 1923. Initially the play was titled Mistakes of a Night, and indeed, the events within the play take place in one long night. In 1778 John O’Keeffe wrote a loose sequel, Tony Lumpkin in Town.


This boisterous and charming comedy of mistaken identities has delighted audiences for over two centuries with its gorgeous language, elegant costumes, and outright hilarity. Two well-bred young men arrive at the country estate of Mr. Hardcastle, intending to court his daughter Kate and her cousin Constance, but when local mischief-maker Tony Lumpkin plays a practical joke on the two urbanites, the Hardcastle household is launched into a dizzying, deliciously frothy romp that examines romance and social manners as well as the art of love.


She Stoops to Conquer Study Guide

She Stoops to Conquer was first produced in London in 1773, and was a massive success. It was reputed to have created an applause that was yet unseen in the London theatre, and almost immediately entered the repertory of respectable companies. Within a decade, it had traveled both throughout the European continent and to the United States.

This was particularly significant considering the lack of success Goldsmith had with his previous comedy, The Good-Natured Man. This play, which explores similar themes within the same “well-made play” frame, performed very poorly when first produced. There are many reasons for this: where She Stoops to Conquer feels natural, The Good-Natured Man can seem stagey and forced; the complicated plot is far less accessible than in She Stoops to Conquer; and the deliberate exploration of the conventions of “sentimental comedy” are less sharp in the earlier work.

However, what perhaps influenced Goldsmith most about its failure was the audience reaction to a scene of “low” behavior, in which the hero is accosted by buffoonish bailiffs. The near-universal disdain for the scene led it be cut from future performances, while the work of a colleague, Hugh Kelly’s False Delicacy, was immensely popular. Owing to his jealous nature and disdain for genteel comedy, Goldsmith seems to have sworn he would avenge his loss with a hit play that skewered the very problems that he blamed for the failure of The Good-Natured Man. As time has proved, he accomplished his goal with She Stoops to Conquer.

Finally, the play is often published with a sub-title, as She Stoops to Conquer, or the Mistakes of a Night. The sub-title was originally its working title, but perhaps due to evoking too strongly Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Goldsmith re-titled the play


Acts: 5. Scenes: 5. Roles: Male (6) , Female (4) , Neutral (0)

Populated by a sweep of brilliant comic characters, She Stoops to Conquer is a spirited comedy of mischief and misunderstanding, as the gallant Marlow mistakes his intended well-born bride for a barmaid.

Young Marlow is petrified in the presence of women of his own class, but rampantly flirtatious with the serving classes. To his alarm, he has been sent, accompanied by his friend Hastings who has his own agenda, to meet the bride his father has chosen for him: the daughter of a respected gentleman, Mr Hardcastle. They have got lost in the dark country roads, and unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – the mischievous Tony Lumpkin convinces them that the old country house is an inn, Mr Hardcastle its eccentric innkeeper, and Kate Hardcastle its barmaid.

Kate, enjoying as a consequence Marlow’s palpable ardour, chooses not to undeceive him, until a delightful flurry of trifling confusions and eavesdroppings have made way for a pleasingly neat happy ending.

Goldsmith’s play was first performed in 1773 at the Covent Garden theatre, London, and its well-meaning comic exuberance has made it a favourite on the stage from Goldsmith’s day to ours.




The Project Gutenberg EBook of She Stoops to Conquer



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