Analysis Pages

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.

Themes Examples in She Stoops to Conquer:

Act The Second

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"an inn..."   (Act The Second)

Marlow is most likely referring to the Inns of Court, a part of the City of London in which the law profession conducted its business and where lawyers (solicitors) received their education. Marlow means that he has been engaged in a quiet life where assertiveness is not an issue.

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"Prudence once more comes to my relief, and I will obey its dictates..."   (Act The Fifth)

The contrast between Hastings and Constance is meant to mirror the difference between men, who are naturally impatient in matters of love, and women, who are thinking about more practical matters like how they are going to live without sufficient money.  Hastings is the voice of romance; Constance, the voice of reason.

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