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Showing 1-4 of 4 reviews(5 star).Show all reviews
on December 30, 2003
Few English plays dating from the eighteenth century appeal to modern audiences. For much of that period comedies were characterized by sentimentality, humanitarianism, and moralizing. Independently, the playwrights Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan rejected this moralizing mode and returned to a humorous, mildly satirical form of comedy.
In a short period they created three plays that are still enjoyed today - She Stoops to Conquer (Goldsmith, 1773), The School for Scandal (Sheridan, 1775) and The Rivals (Sheridan, 1777).
In recent months I have read all three play. All are quite good, but I especially liked She Stoops to Conquer and The School for Scandal. While The School for Scandal is widely admired for its witty dialogue, She Stoops to Conquer offers the most hilarious situations. It is great fun to read.
The basic theme is familiar. The guardians, her father Mr. Hardcastle and her aunt Mrs. Hardcastle, have arranged a suitable marriage for young Miss Hardcastle. She, of course, has other plans. Oliver Goldsmith transformed this overly used situation into delightful comedy. The plot is complicated by a shy suitor, friends with their own plans of elopement, and an unruly prankster, all leading to utter confusion in the rustic Hardcastle household. I quickly became engaged with the ridiculous happenings and I read She Stoops to Conquer in a single sitting.
The inexpensive Dover edition has only a few footnotes, but footnotes are not really required. I give this entertaining play five stars.
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on August 22, 2001
Oliver Goldsmith may not have had the linguistic virtuosity or satiric audacity of his great contemporary, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, but 'She Stoops to Conquer' is one of the few highpoints in English drama between the Restoration and Oscar Wilde. Ironically, in view of its satirising the slavish devotion to French fashions, the play is influenced by early 18th century French comedy: the plot is very similar to Marivaux's 'The Game of love and chance': two fathers arrange a marriage for their children; this paternal decree is severely shaken by disguises, misrecognitions and counter-plots. The difference being, English comedy is always the funniest, and we get lots of marvellous words like 'obstropalous'.
In effect, this drama consists of characters staging dramas to get their way, which are spoiled by other dramas, e.g. Mr. Hardcastle decides his daughter will marry a man she never met, and arranges their meeting; Tony tells this prospective husband, Marlow, and his friend Hastings, that the gentleman's house they seek is a tavern; Kate disguises herself as a barmaid to woo the diffident Marlow. The effect of all these conflicting dramas is to take a supposedly solid, class-based system, based on paternal and aristocratic power, and reveal it as a fragile one based on illusion, a series of masks and attitudes adopted to suit the required social context, where wrong directions can as easily derail as resolve the social order. The best comedy here comes from characters mistaking the social context, as when Marlow treats his host and future father-in-law as a pesky inn-keeper. Significantly, in this over-cultured milieu, most of the spanners in the works are thrown by the illiterate Tony.
In Goldsmith's world, there is no such thing as a 'natural', whole identity - character is divided by public and private roles, fragmented by clothing and ornaments, with passions dictated by fashions. Goldsmith's benevolently cynical view of his century encompasses all its familiar tropes - the carousing squire rake; the social mobility; the marketplace of marriage; the refined bawdiness; the hints at the incipient decline of the aristocracy (where an old estate has degenerated into a plausible inn); the wars turned into legend from a safe distance. Its teeming culture is catalogued too - sentimental novels, the love of theatre, the rise of Gothic fiction (marvellously parodied to the point where the mistress of the house is terrified of her own garden), Hogarth, caricature prints etc.
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on January 12, 1999
One of the particularly interesting things about this play is that it can be seen as a kind of proto-feminist work of art. There is a lot of flirtateous game-playing going on here, but it is entered into by strong, intelligent women who are using the resources they have at hand in their culture to get what they want. Reading this play, or seeing it performed, it is hard to believe that it was written in the 18th Century. Goldsmith has created a humorous story with intriguing plot twists that manages to show women as thinking individuals who take control of their own destinies....even if getting the right man is the way to do that!
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on December 17, 2002
This play is a rollicking satire on the British caste system of that era, seen through the mischief, mayhem, and mistaken identities of this work. Almost a must-read!
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