Populated by a sweep of brilliant comic characters, She Stoops to Conquer is a spirited comedy of mischief and misunderstanding, as the gallant Marlow mistakes his intended well-born bride for a barmaid.
Young Marlow is petrified in the presence of women of his own class, but rampantly flirtatious with the serving classes. To his alarm, he has been sent, accompanied by his friend Hastings who has his own agenda, to meet the bride his father has chosen for him: the daughter of a respected gentleman, Mr Hardcastle. They have got lost in the dark country roads, and unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – the mischievous Tony Lumpkin convinces them that the old country house is an inn, Mr Hardcastle its eccentric innkeeper, and Kate Hardcastle its barmaid.
Kate, enjoying as a consequence Marlow’s palpable ardour, chooses not to undeceive him, until a delightful flurry of trifling confusions and eavesdroppings have made way for a pleasingly neat happy ending.
Goldsmith’s play was first performed in 1773 at the Covent Garden theatre, London, and its well-meaning comic exuberance has made it a favourite on the stage from Goldsmith’s day to ours.