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She stoops to conquer, “a splendid comedy of intrigue”. A comedy of intrigue is a comedy in which there are plots, designs, contrivances, even conspiracies of one character or group of characters, against the others, so that he characters may be divided into intriguers and the victims of those intrigues or the deceivers and the deceived. She stoops to conquer increase the entertainment value of the comedy. Some characters are in the know of the truth, and the others are not, there are different levels of awareness.
The audience knows the truth and this result in dramatic irony, a source of much delightful comedy.
The dramatist’s eye takes on a merry twinkle as it observes the follies and weakness of his characters, as do those of the grown- ups when they see their children at play. Indeed in this respect, Goldsmith leaves behind both the comedy of manners and the sentimental comedy, and goes for inspiration to the earlier and freer atmosphere of the Shakespearean comedy he which is a pure comedy, without any ulterior aims except the entertainment of the readers and spectators.
One is reminded of Puck plat in with mortals and laughing at their folly. The comedy, in short, represents a mixture of many modes. As Allardyce Nichol puts it, “it is not a true comedy of manners, yet it clearly owes part of its inspiration to that school of which Farquhar was one of the last true representatives. In atmospheres it approaches more closely to Shakespeare’s romantic comedy.
There breathes over the play an atmosphere of romantic sentiment-not the sentimentalism of Goldsmith’s contemporaries, but a peculiar union of intellect and emotion which colours the figures and words of Hardcastle and of Tony Lumpkin and of Diggory alike. This humour Goldsmith unquestionably owes to his Irish parentage and upbringing. There is the sly smile, and the concealed wit, the emotional and sincere kindness which marks out the comedies of Shakespeare. Tony lumpkin himself is of the kin of Falstaff. He is a fool, yet a wit also; his follies make us laugh at him, but his clever tricks cause him to be the source of laughter for other men. For once in the eighteenth century, the spirit of Twelfth Night was revived.”
She Stoops to Conquer is a complex work of art and as such as a number of themes and ideas stand out of it. One of the themes is the contrast between appearance and reality. Appearances are deceptive, but they are constantly taken for reality and truth. From this arise a number of mistakes, so many that it would be correct to call the play a great “comedy of errors”. It is “pure comedy”, throughout eschewing both tears hand reforms, but as Thorndike admits it cannot be called “ high comedy”, for it offers no view of high society or modish wit it can scarcely be called “ high” comedy either comedy in the sense that its plot is determined by its characters.
Goldsmith has made extensive use of the device called dramatic irony in the play. Dramatic irony may be defined as the presentation on the stage of certain situations and incidents the real significance of which is known to the audience, but not to the characters on the stage. The real significance of the actions and words of the characters on the stage is known b the audience but not by the actors themselves. So they often act and speak at cross-purposes with each other, and this gives rise to much fun and humour. The audience is on a higher level of awareness, and so in a position to enjoy the fun of it all; But the actors are in the dark as to the truth and so unknowingly become objects of laughter. A few illustrations from the play would make the point clear.
The device called dramatic irony has been fully exploited to increase the entertainment value of the comedy. Throughout the play the audience knows the truth which is not known by the actors on the stage who consequently act and talk at cross-purposes to the great amusement of the readers and audience. In the contradictory impressions formed by Mr. Hardcastle and his daughter about Marlow lied the crux of the comedy. To Mr. Hardcastle, Marlow has appeared extremely rude and impudent, whereas his daughter has found him to be awkward and bashful. The audience knows the real truth about him, viz, that Marlow is neither so impudent as Hardcastle imagines nor so awkward as Miss Hardcastle thinks. The concern of the dramatist is to show how the truth about Marlow is finally revealed to the father and the daughter. Throughout the comedy there prevails a subtle dramatic irony; that is to say the audience is in full possession of facts, which are not known to the characters; the comic in the drama arises out of this irony. Instead of suspense, there is expectation which keeps up the interest, that there is hardly a single dull moment from the beginning to the end. This makes it one of the greatest comedies of the world.
She stoops to conquer is skilful blend of broad and light comedy. The scenes in which Miss Hardcastle appears with young Marlow make an admirable foil to the rest. As we see Miss Hardcastle conducting the “sober sentimental interview”, or being vivacious as the barmaid, our laughter is quite different from our louder laughter when in Tony Lumpkin’s company. Again the farcical scene in which Tony infuriates his mother with his “I can bear witness to that” when she discovers the loss of the jewels, is an admirable variation in the broader fun. And yet again how welcome is Diggory, brief though his contribution of a broad rustic vein of humour is. In fact it would be hard to find in any comedy a more skilful and varied performance by the Comic Muse.
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