She Stoops to Conquer: A Book Review

She stoops to conquer is a satirical drama that depicts the story work within one night where different incidents took place, and chaos that is lucid became the centre of attraction. This play was performed in the year 1773 in London, and since then it is considered as one of the finest drama which is witnessed till the date. It has been part of English Literature and theatre classes of the UK and the USA. It is among the few plays from the 18th century which have an inducing appeal among the readers and audience of today’s generation as well.

The Plot

The plot of the drama revolves around two incidents which are the crux of the play, where the practical jokes are set as the main themes, which depicts the intrigued incidents cheerfully. As the issues which it touches upon ranges from blind date to the decision making choices given to the individuals for selecting their partners with whom they will spend their whole life, and the influence of parents in this important decision and the most crucial one is of the authority of women in the 18th century when the society or sometimes family compels one to take that action that is not following the will of the lady, how she can turn the idea aside with her humour and intelligence, and if required for her happiness can stoops to become a servant to analyze the man chosen for her and conquer the individual aspect of herself. 

She Stoops to Conquer welcomes the possibility from its very title that it had led the bold step of giving the title and making a woman its protagonist. Kate Hardcastle is the protagonist of the drama who relishes playing women from three classes in her quest for husband, and at that era being so liberating is one of the peculiar characteristics used to be found in the women, as they were told to be gentle, kind and submissive and not be independent and bold and especially regarding this issue where the whole influence is of parents of choosing one’s life partner.

The drama starts when Mr Hardcastle and Mrs Hardcastle are having a conversation, where she is complaining they rarely visit any new places and they have only a handful of people who visits them: and Mr Hardcastle pointed out that he is more attached to the old things and also to his old wife and they had a little argument regarding their son Tony Lumpkin, who is childish and love pranks, which is not adored by him, and her mother is defending him by some vague arguments.

Then, Kate Hardcastle enters and her father remarks on her fashionable clothing, on which she put forth that they both are part of the deal which states, that she will dress in old-fashioned style in the evening, and in the morning according to her wish. Her father reveals big news, he decided that she must have a meeting with

Mr Charles Marlow is the son of his friend Sir Charles Marlow, who is being counted as one of the eligible bachelors of their class, and he expects that they both will marry. He has all the good qualities which a lady expects in her husband he is modest, handsome and intelligent but the only trait of his which disturbed Kate was that he is shy around upper classes women, and often attracts lower classes women instead, and along with this shy men are not considered as good husband. And for this doubt to clear, she was ready to act as a servant so that she could understand whether he is the right person to marry or not.

Another story which is going on parallelly is of Constance who is the cousin of Kate Hardcastle, and her stepmother Mrs Hardcastle wanted to marry her with Tony Lumpkin, as the reason behind it is she possessed some really expensive and precious jewels which she does not want that it must go outside from the family. But Ms Constance is in love with Mr Hastings, who is the close friend of  Charles Marlow and they have decided to escape after taking the jewels.

Tony Lumpkin played a prank by stating to Mr Charles Marlow and his friend that their house is popular in where they can stay, and this was the reason Marlow was quite rude towards Mr Hardcastle as by his experience he does not like the inn owners, he in few incidents they ignore him, considering him a lowly innkeeper, which later on infuriate him as well and made him determined that he would not be allowed that marriage to take place.

Later on, Charles Marlow and Kate Hardcastle had a conversation, where he was very shy and he hardly initiates to talk, he was too nervous that he didn’t even complete his sentence and not once he made eye contact with her; and till that time Kate was aware of the prank that Tony had executed, she concluded that if he would have a little bit less shy, she could have been interested in him.

Tony also does not want to get married to Constance and after having a conversation with Mr Hastings, he was ready to help the couple with the box of jewels which they are adhered to get as well as in eloping. In between this, Kate discovered that Charles Marlow mistook her as barmaid of the inn, and she saw this an opportunity of talking with him without any kind of shyness, and she speaks to him like a lower-class woman, he finds her beautiful and elegant and started to flirt with her, and tried to kiss her as well, and this very incident was witnessed by Mr Hardcastle and he was determined to throw him out of the house, but she pacified her father and asked him to give him a chance to explain.

Tony helped Hastings and Constance to elope after the letter comes from Hastings but Tony cannot read so the whole plan of elopement was disclosed to Mrs Hardcastle, who then decided to send her to Aunt Pedigree’s house and at that very incident Tony helped her to elope. After the revelation of the truth, that this house is not an inn and this all happened after the arrival of  Sir Charles Marlow, which made the scene quite comical, and Mr Marlow embarrassed, he also stated that Mr Hastings is a good man, and finally, it was revealed that Tony is of age twenty-one, which Mrs Hardcastle was hiding, that allows him to free Constance and keep her fortune.

Exposition

Exposition refers to the interrelation between literature and the law related aspects of a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory, it is a written work of the passages which explains where events take place, what happened before the story begins, and the background of the characters. She stoops to conquer, is a play which is written in the 18th century when the position of women was not considered that high, and to treat them at par was not even considered as an issue which requires attention.

It was an accepted notion that men were superior to women and the patriarchal society was accepted in the as a norm which is like unsaid rules, which people had accepted without asking questions. During this period, going against or even questioning the decisions of the family was not considered as a trait of poised lady, as they were from a very early age taught to be kind, submissive, beautiful and gentle, so if someone is against the framework were used to see with suspicion and hate.

Kate Hardcastle, the main protagonist around which the whole drama revolves seems that Oliver Goldsmith deliberately picks a female character where he can represent all shades of women, where it’s not important that they must be docile and submissive as when required they should also be witty and strict. She is a character who does not totally against the notions of society which is prevalent but she knows how to balance both the things, the traditions, and individual desire, as in the case of clothing style, she used to wear old fashioned clothes in the evening and modern ones in the morning.

During the decision of selecting her husband, she was convinced that her father’s choice would be appropriate but when she heard that he is shy, she got the second thoughts, as it was said shy people do not become good husband, which pesters her, and for this very purpose, she decided to become a barmaid so that she would be able to get the overall character of Charles Marlow and being a patient person also pacify her father when they ridiculed him and asked for a second chance. The character is inspirational for many as she reflects a woman of individuality, who considers her self respect is her topmost priority, which inspires many women to become the same lady in the future and the inequality and patriarchy must become a term of past is their goal.

Critical Appraisal       

She Stoops to conquer is a drama that is well crafted in most aspects, as it is quite successful in weaving several threads of action. The story exhibits in not much more than one night, the drama is closely packed with activity, so many scenes were arranged in a single night, that leads to a chaotic situation as it provides very less time to understand and imbibe the context of what they want to convey, it could have extended for a longer duration, where the audience will be able to get the understanding of characters author’s purpose of portraying in the form they are.

It is also more like a group play, as it lacks the character of the protagonist, no character is central to the play, in some scenes, the role of Tony is very relevant and the crucial realization of Kate and Marlow, in the end, seems the most important scenes but also at the same time the elopement of Hastings and Neville is equally significant, so usually a story has the protagonist through which the stories are put forward for the audience, and when no protagonist is there it somehow becomes difficult for the audience to see from which lenses they should interpret the story.

It promotes the idea of honest humility and does so with humane good humour. It is a setting on which every drama and story were written in that century, so it is a little bit typical, nothing so new is offered by the author it is much more about the feeling and intuition and grace and against the idea of rationality; and it is presumed that this one is written by Oliver Goldsmith as a means of alternative because he was going through hard days, so not much efforts were put down in writing by him.

Subjective Perceptions

Despite the above-mentioned criticisms, it is one of the most lovable and exceptional dramas which the literary society which has ever witnessed, these are the plays calculated to inspire tears in the eyes of audiences as they witness the love overcoming all obstacles. Goldsmith had a major role to play in reviving the laughing comedy back, they produced pamphlets, articles, and plays regarding the same so that it could reach to a wider population and their very motive gets fulfilled.

This drama has implicitly given the context of equality in the society, the choice of selecting the person with whom one has to spend the life, questioning the decisions, all against the traditional norms of what is accepted by a woman, he gave all the thoughts of his own how a woman should not surrender every time for the sake of society.

Anjali Kumari from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab


“I have a keen interest in the field of research, writing, and reading. I am quite proficient in the work related to Ms word and excel also have good interaction skills.”

Editor: Shailza agarwal

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