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SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER.
(Throughout these notes, boldface figures refer to pages; lightface,
Among the names at first suggested for the play were: The Mistakes of a Night, The Belle's Stratagem, and The Old House a New Inn. Goldsmith's final choice, She Stoops to Conquer; or, The Mistakes of a Night, was prompted by his memory of a line in a play by Dryden: “ But kneels to conquer, and but stoops to rise."
Doctor Samuel Johnson recognized the genius of Goldsmith before he had written any of the work by which we remember him to-day. This Dedication records Goldsmith's sincere friendship for the great scholar and man of letters. Johnson was born in 1709 and died in 1784; he is very familiar to us through the admirable biography written by James Boswell. For the last thirty years of his life he was a kind of “literary dictator,” whose judgment was generally accepted as final. Among his works should be mentioned the essays in the Rambler, Rasselas, the Lives of the English Poets, and the famous Dictionary.
sentimental : Goldsmith refers to the type of comedy then in vogue. Its leading characters were invariably persons of rank and fashion; its language was stilted and affected.
Colman: The manager of Covent Garden Theatre from 17641774. He held the manuscript of She Stoops to Conquer for a long time, and was only persuaded to produce it by Dr. Johnson. late in the season: The actual date of production was March 15, 1773 the season closed in May.
The Prologue was indispensable to the drama of the eighteenth century. Garrick, like Colman, was doubtful about the play. He wrote the Prologue, however, because he saw certain indications that the public taste was beginning to change, and wished to connect himself with Goldsmith in case the comedy should prove a success.
4. Mr. Woodward : Harry Woodward, the actor, had taken a part in the Good-Natur'd Man, but refused that of Tony Lumpkin, for which he was cast. But he delivered the prologue admirably.
“ 'Tis not alone this mourning suit.” See Hamlet,
4, 3. 1. 2. 77:
“ 'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black ...
That can denote me truly ... 12. Shuter: Edward Shuter, another actor
poor Ned” below. He was one of the most successful players in The Good - Natur'd Man.
13. a mawkish drab: a silly woman, fond of sickly sentiment. 14. succeed : here, “ follow.” 21. be moral : indulge in moral reflections.
5, 3. “ all is not gold that glitters”: Note the succession of meaningless platitudes, the stock-in-trade of the sentimental drama.
12. A Doctor: Goldsmith, whose play is to cure the sick " comic muse.”
14. Five Draughts: the five acts. 22. within: behind the scenes.
23. The College you, etc.: you form the college which must support him. The line is too condensed for clearness.
This was the original company of performers. Of one or two of them a word may be said. Lewes had previously been Harlequin in the pantomime. His success as Young Marlow caused
dsmith to show his gratitude by writing an epilogue for his “benefit” performance on May 7, 1773. Quick, who had taken a part in The Good Natur'd Man, made a great hit as Tony Lumpkin. Goldsmith prepared a special sketch for his Benefit on May 8. A song, beginning “ Ah, me! when shall I marry me?”, originally written for Miss Hardcastle, had to be omitted because Mrs. Bulkley could not sing.
7, 10. they travel faster than a stage-coach: At this time the stage-coach was the most rapid means of conveyance.
12. basket: a large wicker-work structure attached to the rear axle-tree of a coach. It was used for carrying baggage.
15. rumbling: rambling.
looks for all the world like an inn: This suggestion gives an air of probability to the error of Marlow and Hastings.
19. Prince Eugene and the Duke of Marlborough: Two great generals of the early eighteenth century. Prince Eugene was the ally of the Duke at the battle of Blenheim in 1704. It might be interesting to read, in this connection, Southey's poem After Blenheim.
8, 4. an old wife: Note Hardcastle's essential good-heartedness, as indicated by this speech.
7. Darby ... Joan: the old couple in the familiar ballad, whose married happiness has become proverbial.
Darby, dear, we are old and gray,
9. make money of that: make what you can of that. 21. quotha! : a contemptuous expression “ learning, indeed!”
29. fastened my wig: The use of the wig was common at the time. Goldsmith once had this trick played on him.
9, 5. A cat and fiddle : Mr. Hardcastle is impatient with his wife's partiality for Tony.
21. this raw evening: a remark which fixes the time of the action. Note that the whole is confined to one evening — as indicated in the sub-title.
23. The Three Pigeons : There were several inns of this name at the time. A small hostelry at Lissoy was afterwards so named in honor of Goldsmith.
27. low: This word was much used by the sentimentalists to brand anything that was not in accordance with what they considered good taste on the stage. Goldsmith turns their own weapon against them; see, especially, the next scene.
29. exciseman: a collector of inland revenue.
21. the indigent world could be clothed, etc.: Goldsmith has a similar thought in The Vicar of Wakefield, where the good Vicar rebukes his daughters for undue attention to dress :
“I do not know whether such flouncing and shredding is becoming even in the rich, if we consider, upon a moderate calculation, that the nakedness of the indigent world might be clothed from the trimmings of the vain.”
23. our agreement: This “ agreement helps to confirm Marlow in his mistake.
12, 15. set my cap: make myself attractive. 13, 2. in face : looking my best.
30. monster : The term was used of any exaggeration in character or appearance.
31. pink of perfection : height of excellence. In The Rivals, Mrs. Malaprop confuses the expression in her customary way: “He is the very pine-apple of politeness.” See page 159.
14, 17. the improvements: a term used of gardens improved by cultivation and so forth.
Allons! “ Come on!”
19. would it were bed-time and all well : a mock-tragic adaptation of Falstaff's remark in I King Henry IV, V. 1. 125:
“I would it were bed-time, Hal, and all well.”
QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION. 1. What
antecedent information ” do we gain from this scene?
2. How is our interest aroused in the characters?
4. Do you note anything looking to the further development of the plot ?
Goldsmith introduces the " shabby scene both to indicate the tastes of Tony Lumpkin and as a deliberate attack on the sentimental drama.
14, 22. knock himself down for a song: The chairman at such gatherings called for a song by tapping on the table with a hammer.
24. a song I made : Some critics have said that an uneducated boor like Tony, who was unable even to read a letter, could never have written such a good song. But it is probable that we are not supposed to take his claims to authorship too seriously. In any case, the spirit of the song is quite in accordance with Tony's opinions. 15, 4. genus :
genius”. Lethes . . . Styxes: Lethe was the River of Forgetfulness, Styx the River of Hate, in the Lower World of the ancients. Stygian is the adjective formed from Styx.
7. Their qui's, etc.: That is, their education and learning, as shown by the use of tin words. 8. pigeons : The pigeon was supposed to be a foolish bird.