Bluff Your Way Through the Play – “She Stoops to Conquer”

Mistaken identities, romantic entanglements, mischief-makers, and clowns, it’s easy to see hints of Shakespeare in Goldsmith’s raucous 18th Century hit She Stoops to Conquer, but you may not know the backstory to this play that some consider the savior of the English stage.

  • City vs. countryside, men vs. women, rich vs. poor.  She Stoops to Conquer is filled polarities and Goldsmith uses them to create comic opposition.
  • Legend has it that the play was inspired by true events. Goldsmith was tricked into thinking that a friend’s country home was local inn. He didn’t realize the error until he asked for the bill the next morning!
  • You can see Shakespeare’s influence (especially from the play Twelfth Night) in She Stoops to Conquer.  Kate Hardcastle shares Viola’s cleverness and determination (and her penchant for disguises). Trickster Tony Lumpkin takes his playbook from the clown Feste.
  • She Stoops to Conquer came along as the Industrial Revolution brought huge changes to England. City life took center stage and the old country traditions were threatened. The play comically reflected all the upheaval people were experiencing both socially and economically.
  • Did you know there were joke books in the 18th century? They were called “jestbooks” and Goldsmith modeled their fast-paced dialogue and ludicrous events when writing She Stoops to Conquer.
  • The play created a fundamental change in the theatrical repertory of the 18th century. She Stoops to Conquer was an antidote to the insipid Sentimental Comedies of the time with its fresh witticisms and new view of what comedy could be.
  • Actors were initially reluctant to be associated with the “low” characters of Tony Lumpkin or Kate who likes being a barmaid. But by opening night of She Stoops to Conquer, the leading ladies were bickering over who got to speak the Epilogue!
  • Goldsmith waffled back and forth on the title for the play. Originally called Mistakes of a Night, he changed the title at the opening night curtain to the more intriguing She Stoops to Conquer.
  • She Stoops to Conquer was so popular that it became fashionable to bring the script to read along at performances and shout the jokes with the actors on stage.
  • She Stoops to Conquer was the crowning achievement in Goldsmith’s all too short career. While had attained the public acclaim he desired, Goldsmith died at age 45, a year after the play opened.