Enter MR. WOODWARD, dressed in black, and holding a handkerchief to his eyes.



YOUNG MARLOW (His Son) Mr. Lee Lewes.
HASTINGS Mr. Dubellamy.
DIGGORY Mr. Saunders.


MISS NEVILLE Mrs. Kniveton.
MAID Miss Williams.


Excuse me, sirs, I pray--I can't yet speak--
I'm crying now--and have been all the week.
"'Tis not alone this mourning suit," good masters:
"I've that within"--for which there are no plasters!
Pray, would you know the reason why I'm crying?
The Comic Muse, long sick, is now a-dying!
And if she goes, my tears will never stop;
For as a player, I can't squeeze out one drop:
I am undone, that's all--shall lose my bread--
I'd rather, but that's nothing--lose my head.
When the sweet maid is laid upon the bier,
Shuter and I shall be chief mourners here.
To her a mawkish drab of spurious breed,
Who deals in sentimentals, will succeed!
Poor Ned and I are dead to all intents;
We can as soon speak Greek as sentiments!
Both nervous grown, to keep our spirits up.
We now and then take down a hearty cup.
What shall we do? If Comedy forsake us,
They'll turn us out, and no one else will take us.
But why can't I be moral?--Let me try--
My heart thus pressing--fixed my face and eye--
With a sententious look, that nothing means,
(Faces are blocks in sentimental scenes)
Thus I begin: "All is not gold that glitters,
"Pleasure seems sweet, but proves a glass of bitters.
"When Ignorance enters, Folly is at hand:
"Learning is better far than house and land.
"Let not your virtue trip; who trips may stumble,
"And virtue is not virtue, if she tumble."

I give it up--morals won't do for me;
To make you laugh, I must play tragedy.
One hope remains--hearing the maid was ill,
A Doctor comes this night to show his skill.
To cheer her heart, and give your muscles motion,
He, in Five Draughts prepar'd, presents a potion:
A kind of magic charm--for be assur'd,
If you will swallow it, the maid is cur'd:
But desperate the Doctor, and her case is,
If you reject the dose, and make wry faces!
This truth he boasts, will boast it while he lives,
No poisonous drugs are mixed in what he gives.
Should he succeed, you'll give him his degree;
If not, within he will receive no fee!
The College YOU, must his pretensions back,
Pronounce him Regular, or dub him Quack.


  1. The “magic charm” is a metaphor for laughter. Laughter is a relatively unusual phenomenon in 18th-century theater, which is plagued by “sentimental comedy.” As the doctor, Goldsmith is administering the medicine, or the “magic charm.” The charm—laughter—is an effect from the potion. Since the potion is Goldsmith’s play, the ensuing laughter is the effect from the play’s genre, the newly founded “laughing comedy.”

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. This is the start of an extended metaphor that uses medical imagery and language to describe Goldsmith’s goal. The maid represents theater and comedy, ill with the epidemic of sentimentalism. The Doctor is Goldsmith himself, who has come to cure the maid of her disease. The poisonous drugs are “sentimental humor,” which will further affect the maid in a negative way. However, the potion, presented in “five draughts,” is She Stoops to Conquer, which has five acts and was written to cure sentimentalism with the new genre of “laughing humor.”

    — Ian, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. The audience, represented by the College of Physicians, will decide whether to confer a degree upon Goldsmith, indicating that the play is a success, or fail to confer a degree, a sign of the play's failure.

    — Stephen Holliday
  4. In medical terms, this refers to doses of medicine.  Here, it is a metaphor for the acts of the play.

    — Stephen Holliday
  5. Goldsmith was rumored to have practiced medicine without being a doctor, so this is a bit of humor at his expense.  Before the play's production, Goldsmith preferred to be referred to as "Doctor Goldsmith."  

    — Stephen Holliday
  6. Ned (Edward) Shuter (1728–1776) was considered by the theater community to be one of the best comic actors of the time. 

    — Stephen Holliday
  7. The phrase "a mawkish drab of spurious breed" refers to an overly sentimental type of drama. In this case, it refers to sentimental comedy.

    — Stephen Holliday
  8. This refers to the Muse of Comedy, Thalia, one of nine goddesses who influenced the arts by inspiring writers, singers, musicians, actors.

    — Stephen Holliday
  9. Henry Woodward (1714–1777) was a comic actor who specialized in plays similar to She Stoops to Conquer.

    — Stephen Holliday
  10. David Garrick (1717–1779) was one of Samuel Johnson and Goldsmith's closest friends.  He began his career as an actor and later managed the Drury Lane Theater, one of the most successful theaters in London during the mid 18th century.  Garrick authored several successful farces and comedies.  Along with Goldsmith and several others, he was part of a group now known as Johnson and His Circle, essentially a social and literary club.

    — Stephen Holliday