the role of humor
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The main purpose of humor in She Stoops to Conquer is to make fun of overly, sentimental emotions.
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The second play of Goldsmith 'She Stoops to Conquer' was produced in 1771. This play marks a departure from the first play and practically introduces the reign of humour in comedy. The entire play with its fun and humour, its intrigues and sparkling dialogues, its mischievous tricks and roguish attempts by Tony Lumpkin deals a direct blow on the sentimental comedy. A piquant observation, elements of ingenious and new realism, a welling froth of pleasantry that never dries up, bathe even the rare movements when emotion could rise all go to make this charming comedy an unalloyed source of amusement.
The principal characters of this comedy are Mr. Hardcastle who loves everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine etc. Mrs Hardcastle and Miss Hardcastle their daughter; Mrs Hardcastle’s son by a former marriage, Tony Lumpkin, a frequenter of ‘The Three Pigeons’, idle and ignorant, but cunning and mischievous, and doted on by his mother; and young Marlow, one of the most bashful and reserved young fellows in the world except with barmaids and servant-girls. Marlow’s father, Sir Charles Marlow has proposed a match between young Marlow and Miss Hardcastle and the young man and his friend, Hastings accordingly travel down to pay the Hardcastles a visit. Losing their way they arrive at night at ‘The Three Pigeons’, where Tony Lumpkin decides to play a prank on them. He directs them to a neighbouring inn, which is in reality the Hardcastle’s House. The fun of the play arises largely from the resulting misunderstanding, Marlow treating Mr Harcastle as the Landlord of the supposed inn and making violent love to Miss Hardcastle, whom he takes for on of his servants. This contrasts with his bashful attitude when presented to her in real character. The arrival of Sir Charles Marlow clears up the misconception and all ends well, including the subsidiary love affair between Hastings and Miss Hardcastle’s cousin, Miss Neville, whom Mrs Harcastle destines for Tony Lumpkin.
The play is a charming one in which the rough edges of the world are ground smooth, in which faults turn out to be virtues and mistakes to be blessings. Its characters are particularly delightful. Tony Lumpkin is a genuine child of the soil and is said to be a monitor. Tony Lumpkin is loved by the readers of the comedy for his pleasant fun and nice jokes. Mr Hardcastle is another character whom we all like because he loves everything that is old. Mrs Hardcastle who appears more like a sentimental mother becomes pathetic because of the way in which she is treated by her son, Tony Lumpkin. Young Marlow and Miss Hardcastle come out as fine lovers and this pair of lovers is well matched by Hastings and Miss Hardcastle’s cousin.
In ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ Goldsmith succeeds in introducing the humour of the finest type. The plot also is well-knitted and the characters have everything of comedy about them. The old mawkish sentimentality is driven out and sense of pathos is supplanted by mirth and delight. Tony’s treatment of his mother, particularly when he drives her round and round the house, would have been extremely pathetic. Goldsmith drives out pathos from the scene and makes it truly comic. Thus everywhere in ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ Goldsmith introduces the qualities of a true comedy.