Themes in She Stoops to Conquer
The Confusion Between Appearances and Truth: There is an inherent confusion between appearance and truth throughout She Stoops to Conquer. Marlow’s misunderstanding of the Hardcastle home drives the plot forward and his misperception of Kate Hardcastle as a barmaid causes them to fall in love. Goldsmith ultimately allows false appearances to reveal the truth. Kate’s deception of Marlow not only sparks their relationship; it also reveals Marlow’s true self. In a similar vein, Tony’s lie about the mansion unveils the truth of Marlow’s and Kate’s affections. Throughout the play, Goldsmith blurs the line between false and true, appearance and reality, in order to argue that the former can lead to the latter.
The Complicated Nature of Gender Roles: Goldsmith targets traditional gender roles in She Stoops to Conquer, examining contemporary male-female interactions while reversing the era’s norms. In the relationship between Hastings and Constance, readers see a traditional pattern of gender relations and courtship. However, in Kate’s pursuit of Marlow, the norms are turned on their head. Goldsmith’s play also explores the objectification and sexual harassment of women, especially women of the working class. Although presented in a comical way, Marlow’s treatment of working-class women as objects is indicative of the dangers and difficulties those women faced. Sexual violence was a common problem of the day, with more and more women entering domestic service, often under the employment of predatory men and their families.