She Stoops to Conquer: Summary
Prologue Mr. Woodward, a contemporary comic actor, walks on stage weeping at the death of comedy. His last hope is that Goldsmith's play will make him laugh and revive the comic arts. (This prologue was written by the era's foremost actor and producer, David Garrick).
Act I, Scene i
Mr. Hardcastle has selected for his daughter's husband someone neither have met, the son of his old friend, Sir
Charles Marlow. Kate fears she will not like him because her father described him as handsome but reserved.
Act I, Scene ii
At the Three Pigeons Tavem, Hardcastle's
stepson, Tony Lumpkin, sings with his drinking buddies. The landlord interrupts, saying that two London gentlemen have lost their way. As a joke, Tony tells the men, Marlow and Hastings, that they remain far from their destination, Hardcastle's house. Then, Tony directs them lo his stepfather's house, describing it as an inn, run by an eccentric innkeeper who fancies
himself a gentleman.
Act II, Scene i
Hardcastle expects a visit from his prospective son-in-law, Marlow, and explains to the servants how they are to behave. Because the Hardcastles seldom see company, their servants are farmhands and become confused
when Hardcastle explains their duties.
Marlow explains to Hastings that while he can be affable and boisterous with serving women and barmaids, he remains painfully shy among proper ladies. Tricked by Tony, Marlow and Hastings mistake Hardcastle for a common innkeeper. Instead of treating him
like a country gentleman, they behave rudely.
Hastings meets Miss Constance Neville, the niece of Mrs. Hardcastle, and is surprised to find her in an inn.
She corrects his mistake, explaining that this is not the Buck's Head Inn but Hardcastle's house. Hastings urges
her to elope with him. Constance hedges,
reluctant to leave behind her inheritance of jewels, which Mrs. Hardcastle greedily guards. Hastings approves of her plan to get the jewels but suggests they tell
Marlow nothing. Hastings fears that if the reserved Marlow discovers that the mansion is not an inn, his embarrassment would drive him to leave, disrupting the lovers' plan.
She Stoops to Conquer: Summary
Plot Account of She Stoops to Conquer
She Stoops to Conquer starts with a prologue in which an actor mourns the death of the classical low comedy at the altar of sentimental, "mawkish" comedy. He hopes that Dr Goldsmith can remedy this problem through the play about to be presented. Country gentleman Mr Hardcastle wishes to marry off his daughter Kate to his very respectable friend's son, Young Marlow. An exciting and romantic night is anticipated at Mr Hardcastle's country home for this purpose. Kate is to be visited by her father's choice of a husband for her, young Marlow, the son of Sir Charles Marlow, Mr Hardcastle's oldest friend. Kate has not yet seen her intended with
his to come young Mr Hastings to call on his sweetheart Constance Neville, Mrs Hardcastle's niece and Kate's dearest friend. Mrs Hardcastle hopes for a match between her son, Tony Lumpkin, Kate's Half brother, and Constance, though both Constance and Tony detest each other. Marlow and Hastings, having lost their way during the post-chaise trip from the city, stop for directions at the Three Pigeons Tavern where Tony, as usual, is whiling away the evening with drink, flirtations and practical jokes. On hearing the travellers' destination, Tony gets the inspiration for what nceives to be a great prank: he tells Marlow and Hastings that they can never reach the Hardcastle home at night over the dangerous path that lies before them, and that, since the Three Pigeons is crowded, they had best go a mile farther to Buck's Head, easily identified by a pair of horns on the door He advises them to drive into the yard "and call stoutly about you." The young men thank him and leave, unaware that Tony has, in reality, sent them to the Hardcastles' home.
Upon arrival, Marlow and Hastings believe Mr Hardcastle to be the innkeeper, and they brusquely about, demanding supper and ignoring his attempts at a host's affability. Marlow insists upon going upstairs to inspect his bed personally, and while he is absent, Constance walks into the room. When Hastings asks what she is doing at the "inn," she exposes the hoax. Hastings warns Constance that the sensitive Marlow must not be allowed to learn the truth, for he might leave at once, humiliated because of his rude conduct, and so spoil their plans
These plans provide for the elopement of Hastings and Constance-just as soon she does so possession of her fortune in jewels which Mrs Hardcastle has carefully locked up. Until they decide to continue to carry out Tony's fraud, Hastings telling Marlow that, by chance, Constance and Kate also are guests at the inn. But the meeting of Marlow and Kate is hardly for the bashful Marlow blushes and stammers stupid compliments. Kate later tells her father that she will have
Hif wkward address, his bashful manner, his hesitating timidity, struck me at first sight. Her father is amazed at her words. Says he: "Then your first sight deceived you, child, for I think him one most brazen sights that ever astonished my senses. He met me with a loud voice, a lordly air a familiarity that made my blood freeze." He and Kate agree to await further developments before pronouncing judgement on Marlow's true nature, and Kate disguises herself as a maid. Marlow, looking.her closely for the first time, assumes her to be "a female of the other class" with which he has never been ill at ease, and he becomes the assured gallant. He tries to kiss her.
Kate protests: "Pray, Sir, keep your distance I'm sure you did not treat Miss Hardcastle that was here a while ago in this obstreperous manner." Marlow replies airily: "Who cares for Miss Hardcastle mere awkward, squinting thing
But you He tries again to embrace her Kate escapes, but not before the irate Mr Hardcastle has arrived to see the scuffle. He demands that Marlow leave his house at once. Marlow tells him to bring his bill and make no more words about it. Mr Hardcastle replies:
Young man, from your father's letter to me, I was taught to expect a well-bred, modest man, but now l find you no better than a coxcomb and a bully! But Sir Charles will be down here presently and you shall hear more of it!" In bewilderment, Marlow calls to the "barmaid," Kate, to clear up the muddle.
She tells him that he is, indeed, in the Hardcastle home, and that she lives there as "a poor relation Marlow, covered with mortification, is prepared to leave at once, but begins to realize his maid, and Kate begins to suspect that he is, after all, quite bearable
In the meantime, the romance ofHastings and Constance is not doing well. To clear the path for their elopement, the helpful Tony, who wants Constance out of the way because she is a threat thas stolen her jewels from Mrs Hardcastle and has given them to Hasting For safekeeping, Hastings has passed them along to Marlow. Marlow, who has thought Mrs Hardcastle only the landlady of the inn has tamed them over to .her to take care of She thus learns of Constance's intended elopement. To put an end to this plan and forward ber hope that Tony shall be Constance's husband, Mrs Hardcastle orders Constance off to her Aunt Pedigree's, summoning Tony to drive Constance and herself there at Once. Tony agrees, and the three start off into the night.
Then Sir Charles arrives. He joins with Mr Hardcastle in a hearty laugh over his son's bewilderment though they assume that the youth, by now, is wholly aware of the truth. But young Marlow still thinks the maid and Kate are different persons, and when twitted by Mr. Hardcastle over his ardent behaviour toward his daughter, replies: "By all that's just and true, sir, l never gave Miss Hardcastle the slightest mark of my attachment." He leaves the room, and now the fathers are completely bewildered. They ask Kate if Marlow has made love to her. "I must say he has," she declares. The fathers decide to watch when the young folk meet again, and they hear Marlow, still believing Kate to be the poor relation, declare his love for her and offer marriage. The two men come forward to reproach him for is hypocrisy, and Hardcastle says: "What have you to say for yourself now, young man you can a lady in private and deny it in public; you have one story for us and another for my daughter Marlow then learns that the maid, in reality, is Kate. He can only say:
Oh the devil" The tangle now unravelled, the young people are happily betrothed
Good fortune also comes to Hastings and Constance. The irrepressible of taking party to Aunt Pedigree's, has driven them for hours around the hardcastle ground, jouncing through every mud-hole to make the trip more miserable, before finally bringing the carriage to a halt at the end
f the Hardcastle garden. The exhausted Mrs. Hardcastle is in no mood to reproach Tony or even to oppose the match between Hastings and Constance, although she does insist upon retaining released to jewels. A condition of the custody of Constance's fortune, however, is that the jewels shall be Llbought
ber if Tony, upon coming of age, refuses to mamy her Mr Hardcastle then tells Tony: "While Iilulu In mndurf to your improvement, I concurred with your mothers desire to keep it secret. But since I find that she turns it to a wrong use, I must now declare that you have been of age these three months."
"Then," says Tony, "you'll see the first use I'll make of my liberty." He formally renounces Constance, removing the last barrier to the double match. Constance and Hastings, her true love, then get engaged There are two epilogues generally printed to the play, one ofwhich sketches in metaphor Goldsmith's attempt to bring comedy back to its traditional roots, and the other of which suggests Tony Lumpkin has adventures yet to be realized.