Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer’

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Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ focuses on the seemingly inconsequential and often innocent mistakes of distinctively human characters. Goldsmith has portrayed his characters through various types of humour, including comedy of manners, farce and comedy of situation, which are the three basic types used in the play. Goldsmith also uses wit, puns, satire and dramatic irony for effect as well. Goldsmith has portrayed Tony Lumpkin mainly through farce and satire. Tony is a dim-witted verve, who orchestrates one plot after another, always to the benefit of his own desires.

Throughout the play, there are numerous farcical elements. An example of this type of comedic device is in act 5 where Tony leads his mother and Constance round and round their own garden, pretending it is the road to “old aunt Pedigree’s”. This use of farce is one of the foundations for the comedy used in “She Stoops to Conquer”. Satire also has been used quite regularly. In Act 1, Scene 1 Tony Lumpkin satirises the erudite Latin learning of the gentry in his song at the alehouse. An example from the song is, “Let school masters puzzle their brain”.

This use of satire adds to the humour of the play. Goldsmith’s use of comedy of manners revolves mostly around Richard Marlow, who is the object of this type of humour. An example of this type of humour is where Marlow will not ask for directions on the way for fear of ‘an unmannerly answer’. It is also Marlow’s ‘manners’ taken to ludicrous extreme that makes for his total awkwardness and inability to relate to women of social standing.

An example of his inability is in Act 2, where he was unable to look Kate in her eye, “Pardon me, madam, I-I-I-as yet have studied-only-to-deserve them. Marlow is also portrayed through the comedy of situation. In act 1, Marlow is duped into arrogantly treating the Hardcastle home as a common inn. An example of his rudeness is in Act 2, ‘And damn your prune sauce, I say. ” This mistaken identity is practically the basis for the humour in the play. In the initial meeting between Marlow and the Hardcastles, there is an abundance of asides, which create dramatic irony. Without the asides, much of the humour would be lost. Goldsmith portrays Kate through verbal wit in the scene where Kate meets Marlow.

Kate shows up his inadequacy with words in the first scene, an example from here is, ‘You were observing, sir, that in this age of hypocrisy’. She teases him with words in the second, ‘Did you call, sir? Did your honour call? “. This comedic device of verbal wit is humorous. Satire is used in the first encounter between Kate and Marlow, where they satirise the attitude of the day. Also, Kate is ambiguous in the fact that she goes out of her way not to lie to Marlow but not to be revealed.

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