She Stoops to Conquer

She Stoops in Vanity

<BLOCKQUOTE>As for disappointing them, I should not mind much; but I can’t abide to disappoint myself!</BLOCKQUOTE>

Thus speaks Tony Lumpkin in the first scene of Oliver Goldsmith’s eighteenth-century comedy of errors <i>She Stoops to Conquer</i>. It is a rather inconsequential moment with the ostensible purpose of introducing Tony as willful and impetuous, further exemplified by his subsequent slapstick exit (made while comically tethered by his less-muscled if equally willful mother). Tony, in conjunction with his mother, is to be viewed as having a self-indulgent temperament distinct from the rest of the more refined ensemble. However, this moment of Tony’s expression of self-interest represents the driving force behind the entire play: a solipsistic selfishness seems to motivate everyone’s actions throughout the mistakes of a night. Not all of the characters are as blunt about their egotism as Tony, and sometimes they try to mask it behind other supposed stimuli. Nonetheless, it becomes apparent that every major plot development and calculable confusion is the result of a willed expression of egotism by one or more of the characters with little real concern for anyone else.

The disinterested veils...

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