Charles Marlow – The central male character, who has set out to court the young attractive Kate Hardcastle. A well-educated man, “bred a scholar”, Marlow is brash and rude to Mr. Hardcastle, owner of “Liberty Hall” (a reference to another site in London), whom Marlow believes to be an innkeeper. Because Marlow’s rudeness is comic, the audience is likely not to dislike him for it. Marlow is sophisticated and has travelled the world. Around working-class women Marlow is a lecherous rogue, but around those of an upper-class card he is a nervous, bumbling fool. Thus, his interview with Kate exploits the man’s fears, and convinces Miss Hardcastle she’ll have to alter her persona drastically to make a relationship with the man possible. The character of Charles Marlow is very similar to the description of Goldsmith himself, as he too acted “sheepishly” around women of a higher class than himself, but among “creatures of another stamp” acted with the most confidence.
George Hastings – Friend of Charles Marlow and the admirer of Miss Constance Neville. Hastings is an educated man who cares deeply about Constance, with the intention of fleeing to France with her. However the young woman makes it clear that she can’t leave without her jewels, which are guarded by Mrs Hardcastle, thus the pair and Tony collaborate to get hold of the jewels. When Hastings realises the Hardcastle house isn’t an inn, he decides not to tell Marlow who would thus leave the premises immediately.
Tony Lumpkin – Son of Mrs Hardcastle and stepson to Mr Hardcastle, Tony is a mischievous, uneducated playboy. Mrs. Hardcastle has no authority over Tony, and their relationship contrasts with that between Hardcastle and Kate. He is promised in marriage to his cousin, Constance Neville, yet he despises her and thus goes to great effort to help her and Hastings in their plans to leave the country. He cannot reject the impending marriage with Constance, because he believes he’s not of age. Tony takes an interest in horses, “Bet Bouncer” and especially the alehouse, where he joyfully sings with working-class people. It is Tony’s initial deception of Marlow, for a joke, which sets up the plot.
Mr. Hardcastle – The father of Kate Hardcastle but he is mistaken by Marlow and Hastings as an innkeeper. Hardcastle is a level-headed countryman who loves “everything old” and hates the town and the “follies” that come with it. He is very much occupied with the ‘old times’ and likes nothing better than to tell his war stories and to drop names, such as the Duke of Marlborough, into conversations. Hardcastle cares for his daughter Kate, but insists that she dress plainly in his presence. It is he who arranges for Marlow to come to the country to marry his daughter. Hardcastle is a man of manners and, despite being highly insulted by Marlow’s treatment of him, manages to keep his temper with his guest until near the end of the play. Hardcastle also demonstrates a wealth of forgiveness as he not only forgives Marlow once he has realised Marlow’s mistake, but also gives him consent to marry his daughter.
Mrs. Hardcastle – Wife to Mr. Hardcastle and mother to Tony, Mrs. Hardcastle is a corrupt and eccentric character. She is an over-protective mother to Tony, whom she loves, but fails to tell him he’s of age so that he is eligible to receive £1,500 a year. Her behaviour is either over-the-top or far-fetched, providing some of the play’s comedy. She is also partly selfish, wanting Constance to marry her son to keep the jewels in the family; she’s blissfully unaware however, that they despise each other, and that Constance is in fact planning to flee to France with Hastings. Mrs. Hardcastle is a contrast to her husband, which provides the humour in the play’s opening. She loves the town, and is the only character who’s not happy at the end of the play.
Miss Kate Hardcastle – Daughter to Mr. Hardcastle, and the play’s stooping-to-conquer heroine. Kate respects her father, dressing plainly in his presence to please him. The formal and respectful relationship that she shares with her father, contrasts with that between Tony and Mrs. Hardcastle. Kate enjoys “French frippery” and the attributes of the town, much as her mother does. She is both calculating and scheming, posing as a maid and deceiving Marlow, causing him to fall in love with her.
Miss Constance Neville – Niece of Mrs. Hardcastle, she is the woman whom Hastings intends to court. Constance despises her cousin Tony, she is heir to a large fortune of jewels, hence her aunt wants her to remain in the family and marry Tony; she is secretly an admirer of George Hastings however. Neville schemes with Hastings and Tony to get the jewels so she can then flee to France with her admirer; this is essentially one of the sub-plots of She Stoops to Conquer.
Sir Charles Marlow – A minor character and father of Charles Marlow; he follows his son, a few hours behind. Unlike his son, he does not meet Tony Lumpkin in the Three Pigeons alehouse, and thus is not confused. He is an old friend of Mr. Hardcastle, both of them once having been in the British military, and is quite pleased with the union of his son and his friend’s daughter. Sir Charles enjoys the follies of his son, but does not understand these initially. However, he is quite upset when his son treats Kate as a maid.
Sir Charles Marlow
The father of Young Marlow and friend of Hardcastle. A respectable and aristocratic fellow from the town who believes his son is of very modest character.
Ostensibly the hero of a play. A respectable fellow who comes to Hardcastle’s home to meet Kate Hardcastle. Possessed of a strange contradictory character, wherein he is mortified to speak to any “modest” woman, but is lively and excitable in conversation with barmaids or other low-class women.
The patriarch of the Hardcastle family, and owner of the estate where the play is set. He despises the ways of the town, and is dedicated to the simplicity of country life and old-fashioned traditions.
Friend of Marlow’s, and lover of Constance Neville. A decent fellow who is willing to marry Constance even without her money.
Son of Mrs. Hardcastle from an earlier marriage, and known for his free-wheeling ways of drinking and tomfoolery. Loves to play practical jokes. Proves to be good-natured and kind despite his superficial disdain for everyone. His mother wants him to marry Constance but he is set against the idea.
Hardcastle’s head servant.
Matriarch of the Hardcastle family, most notable for her pronounced vanity. She coddles her son Tony, and wants him to marry her niece, Constance Neville.
Called “Miss Hardcastle” in the play. The heroine of the play, she is able to balance the “refined simplicity” of country life with the love of life associated with the town. She pretends to be a barmaid in order to judge her suitor Marlow’s true character.
Called “Miss Neville” in the play. Niece of Mrs. Hardcastle, an orphan whose only inheritance is a set of jewels in the care of her aunt. Her aunt wishes her to marry Tony Lumpkin, but Constance wants to marry Hastings.
Kate’s servant. The woman who tells her that Marlow believed Kate to be a barmaid, which leads Kate towards her plan to stoop and conquer.
Landlord of the Three Pigeons, who welcomes Marlow and Hastings, and helps Tony to play his trick on them.
Marlow’s drunken servant. His drunken impertinence offends Hardcastle, which leads Hardcastle to order Marlow to leave