British Restoration Era English Literature

London in the age of Goldsmith was entirely different from the London as we know today. Great social, political and economical changes were in the air when Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer was enacted. These changes created a turning point of fortune of many families there by making some impoverished and many others prosper to become one among the middle class families of England. As a result, marriages and love affairs, instead of being the union of two people, the man and woman, both physically and mentally, it became union of money, land and titles.

Hence the decreasing of wealth in the rural, old and titled families and an increase in the wealth in newly affluent commercial urban areas brought about various marriages of children from titled families, with those of untitled, cash-rich but land-poor commercial families. This balance is what Goldsmith tries to drive home in his famous play She Stoops to Conquer. Moreover, “the play also offers three types of marriage. One possibility: a loveless, parentally-enforced marriage, as that arranged by Mrs. Hardcastle between Tony and Constance.

Another option: marriage for love, but against parental wishes, as seen in Hastings’s plans for eloping with Constance. Finally, the best solution, compromise between parent and child, as in Kate’s marriage with Marlow — a marriage based on affection but also sanctioned by paternal authority. ” Schmidt, Passionate love existed definitely, but it was not directly linked to marriage. Love in those times is well explicated by Goldsmith through his varied characters as represented in the play.

To start with, we have Mr. Hardcastle who loves everything that is “old”, including his wife. He is a loving husband who loves his wife most intensely in spite of the fact that there is a lot of difference in their natures. He is a very home loving person as we see his wife complaining every now and then that they are not frequenting London to polish up their manners and acquire knowledge of the latest fashions. It is truly because of him that their life goes on uneventfully. He represents the gentle man of the society at that time.

His good nature and generosity alone bring the two love stories to a happy end and the mistakes of the night are crowned with merry-making in the morning. Mrs. Hardcastle, greedy, self-centered, with no regard for the feeling, likes and dislikes of others, sees love and marriage only in terms of monetary wealth. She truly represents the attitude of love and money of those times in the so-called aristocratic families. To retain her orphan niece’s (Constance Neville) fortune in the form of jewellery in the family, she tries to get her married with her son, Tony Lumpkin, who is a person who cannot be spoiled more.

She does not consider at all, that he is unworthy of his cousin and that he himself dislikes her and wants to marry another woman. Blinded by her greed and her infatuation for her son, she courts Constance on behalf of her son and tries her best to unite them in holy wedlock. The result is that she loses both, the jewellery and her niece. Her portrayal makes explicit the fact that women of her age in those days tended to be cruel mothers who never paid any respect to either the romantic or the ordinary feelings of their children if they did not have a monetary significance.

Marlowe represents the well-to-do families of the day who thinks that in order to prove his worth he has to travel long and wide and thus understand more about manhood. He is the kind of man whom ladies in those ages are after. ‘Manhood’ is just in his thoughts not deeds as we see him shy and moody in the company of ladies of higher rank and status. In keeping with the age, for him too marriage is more related to social positions and monetary affairs than love.

That is why he rejects Kate when he is still mistaking her for a simple barmaid instead of a lady: “But to be plain with you, the difference of our birth, fortune and education makes an honourable connection impossible; and I can never harbour a thought of seducing simplicity that trusted in my honour, or bringing ruin upon one whose only fault was being too lovely. ” (p. 42). Whatever be his shortcomings, Kate falls in love with him as he satisfies all the demands that women of that age sought in a man. Hence his drawbacks are easily forgotten and even if there is any left, Kate resolves to cure him of that.

His character develops in due course of the play and becomes worthy of Kate who has discerned his potential capacity to become a genuine love. No doubt, he represents the typical middle class man who gives equal regard to money, love and good manners. As a foil to him, we have Hastings, a well-dressed young man of considerable physical charms. He is presented as the most romantic and the most impractical man who has led an easy comfortable life like Marlow, but is not at all have a dual character like him. His love for Constance is true, deep and sincere.

He loves her only for herself, and no mercenary conditions weigh with him. He presses her to elope with him leaving behind her fortune for his love is not tainted by monetary things. Their love affair can be said as the most straight forward one but we see that too as being conditioned by money. As Mrs. Hardcastle is the keeper of Neville’s jewels, to get back her wealth, Constance should marry the person whom she pleases, unless the person refuses. It is to keep the money in the family itself that she forces her son to marry Constance. But Constance and Hastings proclaim their love several times disregarding the money.

During a conversation that both hold, Miss Neville states she would rather marry him once she owns all her jewels so that they can secure their future: “The instant they (jewels) are put into my possession you shall find me ready to make them and myself yours”. But Hastings exclaims: “Perish the baubles! Your person is all I desire” (p. 19). Even when the young lady assures that “in the moment of passion, fortune may be despised, but it ever produces a lasting repentance” Hastings insists on letting their feelings flow: “Perish fortune.

Love and contempt will increase what we possess beyond a monarch’s revenue. Let me prevail” (p. 56). Kate Hardcastle is a lover who rises to the occasion whenever such a situation arises. She is presented as vivacious, young and very inventive. Instead of waiting meekly to make her lover change to a bold person, she takes things into her hands. If she remains inactive, she will lose Marlow. Hence she throws all her false modesty to the wind and decides to win a husband even at the cost of some maidenly modesty and delicacy.

She chases and courts instead of being chased and courted. As her foil is presented Constance Neville, who is straight forward, sensible and determined. In her pretence of love to Tony to satisfy her aunt, her stooping is moral and not merely social as that of Kate. “She Stoops to Conquer is a beautifully constructed play where love conquers all, despite the combined efforts of a greedy woman, her inept son and an unfortunate case of ‘pedestalisation of women’ in the young male lead! ”. Hence in the play we see people loving and marrying for several reasons; for love, for money or just to follow patterns of the existing society.

Works Cited:

Henderson, Catherine, http://www. cops. org. uk/reviews/she_stoops. htm. Schmidt, Arnold
Jeffares, Harman A. , Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer’, Macmillan Co. Ltd, Great Britain, 1966. Wood R. J. , ‘She Stoops to Conquer’, Coles Publishing Company, Canada, 1968.

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