She Stoops to Conquer


Oliver Goldsmith

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Themes and Colors
Mistakes and Deceptions Theme Icon
Class and Geography Theme Icon
Courtship and Love Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Fashions and Tastes Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in She Stoops to Conquer, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Mistakes and Deceptions

An improbable series of deceptions and misunderstandings about characters’ identities propels the plot of She Stoops to Conquer, and at the center of these deceptions is the protagonist Marlow’s mistaken belief that the Hardcastle family—an elite family he hopes to impress—are lowly innkeepers. As a comedy of manners, the play uses its deceptions to bring its most pretentious and uppity characters down to earth by stripping them of their pompous self-assurance. More than…

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Class and Geography

She Stoops to Conquer takes place in England in the 18th century, a time when British society was still rigidly divided along traditional class lines, but was in the midst of a geographic shift that complicated class distinctions, as both poor and rich were leaving rural areas in droves and moving to the cities. Although the upper class in the city was not technically superior to the upper class living in the countryside, urban aristocrats…

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Courtship and Love

She Stoops to Conquer, like most comedies of its time, is a story about courtship and the obstacles couples overcome on their way to marriage. Unlike other plays, however, this play satirizes the exaggeratedly complex obstacles often faced by lovers in other dramas of the time, and emphasizes instead how an individual’s psychology can create impediments to developing a romantic relationship. Through the character of Marlow, who is unable to interact with women…

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Parents and Children

She Stoops to Conquer shows the effect of parenting on a child’s character, even once that child becomes an adult. The play suggests that parents who smother their children, as well as parents who do not participate much in their children’s upbringing, tend to raise children who are not fully prepared for adulthood, or who reject their parents’ values. By allowing a child some freedom, but also remaining involved in the child’s life, a parent…

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Fashions and Tastes

As is typical of a comedy of manners, She Stoops to Conquer satirizes its characters’ rigid adherence to contemporary fashions by showing characters who exaggeratedly embody a number of different cultural trends. In the same way that people poke fun at the hipster subculture today, Goldsmith takes aim at the hipster of the 1770s through the character of Marlow the “macaroni”—a fashion-obsessed, travel-obsessed, manneristic type of young man often caricatured at the time. The play…

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