She Stoops to Conquer

Type of comedy

The type of comedy which She Stoops to Conquer represents has been much disputed. However there is a consensus amongst audiences and critics that the play is a comedy of manners (see below for details). It can also be seen as one of the following comedy types:

Laughing comedy or sentimental comedy

When the play was first produced, it was discussed as an example of the revival of laughing comedy over the sentimental comedy seen as dominant on the English stage since the success of The Conscious Lovers, written by Sir Richard Steele in 1722. In the same year, an essay in a London magazine, entitled "An Essay on the Theatre; Or, A Co Laughing And Sentimental Comedy", suggested that sentimental comedy, a false form of comedy, had taken over the boards from the older and more truly comic laughing comedy.

Some theatre historians believe that the essay was written by Goldsmith as a puff piece for She Stoops to Conquer as an exemplar of the laughing comedy which Goldsmith (perhaps) had touted. Goldsmith's name was linked with that of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, author of The Rivals and The School for Scandal, as standard-bearers for the resurgent laughing comedy.

Comedy of manners

The play can also be seen as a comedy of manners, in which, in a polite society setting, the comedy arises from the gap between the characters' attempts to preserve standards of polite behaviour, that contrasts to their true behaviour.

Romantic comedy

It also seen by some critics as a romantic comedy, which depicts how seriously young people take love, and how foolishly it makes them behave, (similar to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream); in She Stoops to Conquer, Kate's stooping and Marlow's nervousness are good examples of romantic comedy.


Alternatively, it can be seen as a satire, where characters are presented as either ludicrous or eccentric. Such a comedy might leave the impression that the characters are either too foolish or corrupt to ever reform, hence Mrs. Hardcastle.

Farce or comedy of errors

The play is sometimes described as a farce and a comedy of errors, because it is based on multiple misunderstandings, hence Marlow and Hastings believing the Hardcastles' house is an inn.

The Three Unities

The dramatic technique of Classical unities is employed by Goldsmith to some extent in She Stoops to Conquer.

The Unity of Action – This is the one Unity that Goldsmith does not rigorously follow; the inclusion of the subplot of Constance-Hastings eloping distracts from the main narrative of the play. However, it shares similar themes of relationships and what makes the best kind (mutual attraction or the arrangement of a parent or guardian). Furthermore, the subplot interweaves with the main plot, for example when Hastings and Marlow confront Tony regarding his mischief making.

The Unity of Time – The alternative title of Mistakes of the Night illustrates that the Unity of Time is carefully observed. With all of the events occurring in a single night, the plot becomes more stimulating as well as lending more plausibility to the series of unlucky coincidences that conspire against the visitors.

The Unity of Place – While some may question whether She Stoops to Conquer contains the Unity of Place – after all, the scene at the "The Three Pigeons" is set apart from the house – but the similarity between the alehouse and the "old rumbling mansion, that looks all the world like an inn" is one of close resemblance; enough that in past performances, the scenes have often doubled up the use of the same set backdrop. Also, there is some debate as to whether the excursion to "Crackskull common" counts as a separate setting, but since the truth is that the travellers do not leave the mansion gardens, the Unity of Place is not violated.

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