The action of She Stoops to Conquer (1773) is largely confined to a night and a day in Squire Hardcastle's somewhat dilapidated country house: Young Marlow, on his way there to meet the bride his father has chosen for him, loses his way and arrives at the house assuming it is an inn. The prospect of meeting the genteel Miss Hardcastle terrifies the diffident youngster; but the serving-girl Kate - in fact, Miss Hardcastle, who chooses not to clarify the misunderstanding - immediately catches his fancy and cannot complain of a lack of ardour in her well-born suitor. After a series of trifling confusions and the inevitable eavesdropping-from-behind-a-screen, all is resolved so pleasingly that the comedy has been a favourite with amateur and professional companies and their audiences for over 230 years.
I went into this book with very little expectation. I mean, it's a supposed classic that I've never heard of, and drama isn't my particular favorite. However, it was a free audiobook download from Sync this summer, and it was the recording of a theater production that included James Marsters (eek!). It's also only a couple of hours long (not a huge commitment at all), so I decided to give it a go.
Um, why haven't I heard of this play before? Because it's hilarious! 20 minutes in, I was laughing non-stop and having a thoroughly good time. The fact that this is recorded theatre gives it a huge advantage, since the performers give their lines with perfect emphasis and tone. She Stoops to Conquer is a typical comedy that centers around mistaken identities and misunderstood situations. All of the characters are funny and loveable, and the talent of the performers is unmistakable, even without being able to see them act it out.
I'm so glad that I had the chance to discover this play, and that I was able to do so in an audio format. I think that most plays are meant to be heard and/or seen, and I would definitely recommend staying away from the print and going straight to a performance or this audio version for She Stoops to Conquer. Many of the jokes wouldn't be very funny without hearing the interaction between the characters and without hearing the inflections of the words.
The plot is fairly predictable; however, because of its simplicity and some of the extremely ludicrous characters (like Mrs. Hardcastle), I believe this was written as a parody of the mistaken identities type of play that Shakespeare is so famous for.
If you ever get the chance to listen to this, or see it performed, do so! It's one of the funniest plays I've come across.
Along the way, Goldsmith delights us with the antics of Kate's half-brother, the oafish and prank-loving Tony Lumpkin (who turns out to be a lot smarter than he seems) and a second pair of lovers, Marlowe's friend Hastings and Constance Neville, Mrs. Hardcastle's niece and ward. Not to mention a whole crew of hilarious servants!
This has been on e of the most popular plays in the English language since its debut in 1773, and it's easy to understand just why.