She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy, first performed in London in 1773.
When the play was first produced, it was discussed as an example of the revival of laughing comedy over the sentimental comedy seen as dominant on the English stage since the success of The Conscious Lovers, written by Sir Richard Steele in 1722. In 1772, an essay in a London magazine, entitled "An Essay On The Theatre; Or, A Comparison Between Laughing And Sentimental Comedy", suggested that sentimental comedy, a false form of comedy, had taken over the boards from the older and more truly comic laughing comedy. Some theatre historians believe that the essay was written by Goldsmith as a puff piece for She Stoops to Conquer, as an exemplar of the laughing comedy Goldsmith (perhaps) had touted. Goldsmith's name was linked with that of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, author of The Rivals and The School for Scandal, as standard-bearers for the resurgent laughing comedy.
The play is a great 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.
The central plot of the play follows Charles Marlow, a wealthy young man who is being forced by his family to consider a potential bride whom he has never met. He is anxious about meeting her; he suffers from shyness around women of some wealth, but around women of the lower classes transforms into a positively lecherous rogue. He sets out for the Hardcastle's manor with a friend, George Hastings, himself an admirer of Miss Constance Neville, another young lady who lives at the Hardcastle's. During the journey the two men become lost and stop at The Three Pigeons for directions.
Tony Lumpkin comes across the two strangers at an Alehouse, and realizing their identities, plays a practical joke by telling them that they are a long way from their destination and will have to stay overnight at an inn. The "inn" he directs them to is in fact the home of his parents, the Hardcastles. When they arrive, the Hardcastles, who have been expecting them, go out of their way to make them welcome. However, Marlow and Hastings, believing themselves in an inn, behave in a fashion not suited to such manors (even if Liberty Hall is crumbling).
Hastings is also in love with Miss Neville, and they have a secret affair. Mrs. Hardcastle, in a way, "courts" Miss Neville for her son, Tony, even though Tony hates Miss Neville. Eventually, Hastings and Miss Neville get together and live happily.
Meanwhile, Tony's sister, Kate, the bride-to-be, learning of the error and also acquainted with her suitor's shyness, masquerades as a serving-maid in order to get to know him. Marlow falls in love with her and plans to elope with her but because she appears of a lower class acts in a very bawdish manner around her. All misunderstandings are resolved by the end, thanks to an appearance by Sir Charles Marlow, and Marlow and Kate live happily ever after.
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She Stoops to Conquer
|The Limited Editions Club 1st Thus Hardcover edition, Date published 1964, Illustrated by T. M. Cleland, 121 pages|
|4to - over 93/4" - 12" tall. Intro. by Louis Kronenberger, signed by the illustrator. 19 color illustrations plus intricate double-page title spread. Book is gold embossed buckram, leather spine label stamped in gold, beveled boards||
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