She Stoops to Conquer

She Stoops to Conquer Study Guide

She Stoops to Conquer was first produced in London in 1773, and was a massive success. It was reputed to have created an applause that was yet unseen in the London theatre, and almost immediately entered the repertory of respectable companies. Within a decade, it had traveled both throughout the European continent and to the United States.

This was particularly significant considering the lack of success Goldsmith had with his previous comedy, The Good-Natured Man. This play, which explores similar themes within the same "well-made play" frame, performed very poorly when first produced. There are many reasons for this: where She Stoops to Conquer feels natural, The Good-Natured Man can seem stagey and forced; the complicated plot is far less accessible than in She Stoops to Conquer; and the deliberate exploration of the conventions of "sentimental comedy" are less sharp in the earlier work.

However, what perhaps influenced Goldsmith most about its failure was the audience reaction to a scene of "low" behavior, in which the hero is accosted by buffoonish bailiffs. The near-universal disdain for the scene led it be cut from future performances, while the work of a colleague, Hugh Kelly's False Delicacy, was immensely popular. Owing to his jealous nature and disdain for genteel comedy, Goldsmith seems to have sworn he would avenge his loss with a hit play that skewered the very problems that he blamed for the failure of The Good-Natured Man. As time has proved, he accomplished his goal with She Stoops to Conquer.

Finally, the play is often published with a sub-title, as She Stoops to Conquer, or the Mistakes of a Night. The sub-title was originally its working title, but perhaps due to evoking too strongly Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Goldsmith re-titled the play.