One of the eighteenth-century’s most enduring comedies, She Stoops to Conquer takes a comedic, often farcical, look at the behavior and marital expectations of the upper classes in England at this time. The play centers around the desire of Hardcastle, a wealthy landowner in the country, for his daughter, Kate Hardcastle, to marry the well-educated Charles Marlow. Together with Marlow’s father, Sir Charles Marlow, they arrange for the younger Marlow to visit the Hardcastle’s house and court Kate. However Kate is less than impressed when she finds out that, despite his otherwise strong, respectable character, Charles is extremely shy and reserved around ladies. She therefore vows to herself that she could never marry him. Before Charles and his friend, George Hastings, can arrive at the house, they are waylaid by Mr. Hardcastle’s stepson at the local alehouse. A mischievous joker, Tony Lumpkin persuades them that the Hardcastle’s house is, in fact, the local inn. Thus, when Marlow and Hastings arrive, Marlow treats the Hardcastle family with impudence and disrespect, falsely believing them to be servants there. In order to get to the bottom of his true character, Kate disguises herself as a maid and comedy ensues as Marlow makes love to the “maid” and disregards her father. Meanwhile, George Hastings is thrilled to find his true love, Constance Neville, living at the Hardcastle’s house. Through the scheming of Mrs. Hardcastle, she is due to marry Tony, despite their mutual dislike of each other. Finding a way to get out of his marriage, Tony helps Constance to retrieve her inheritance and gets his mother out of the way, dumping her in a local horsepond! Finally, as Marlow’s father arrives, all is put to right and Charles Marlow is mortified by his behavior. Forgiven by all, the two couples find happiness with each other, and Tony successfully gains his rightful inheritance without an unwanted engagement.
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