Five Fun Facts about She Stoops to Conquer
1. INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS She Stoops To Conquer may be based on playwright Oliver Goldsmith’s personal life experience. According to a letter written by his sister, on his way home from college, Goldsmith stumbled into a bar and demanded a man tell him directions to “the best inn in the neighborhood.” Unfortunately for Goldsmith, he was talking to the local trickster Cornelius Kelly, who directed him to Squire Featherstone’s country house. When Goldsmith arrived, he was just as insulting and demanding as the aristocratic character Marlow is in the play. Like Marlow, Goldsmith didn’t realize his mistake until he requested the bill and was embarrassed to discover that the host was a friend of his father’s.
2. BEYOND RESTORATION COMEDY She Stoops to Conquer appeared in the late 18th century (1773) as a comedy of manners that mocks its predecessors. With this play, Goldsmith achieved a parody of the melancholy, moralistic, and sentimental plays produced in backlash to the previous decades’ sexually frank Restoration plays. Many scholars consider She Stoops to Conquer a gateway to a new era of popular comedy, influenced by a changing society: Goldsmith challenges the accepted hierarchies of the time period by blending wit with “low” humor, but still submits to them at the end. Women may speak freely, and engage in repartee and intrigue, but in the end they consent to marry and confirm patriarchal values.
3. DANGEROUSLY FUNNY She Stoops to Conquer was originally rejected by London’s famous Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres because it didn’t conform to the theatrical fashion of the times for sentimental comedy and melodrama. Covent Garden Theatre’s manager, George Coleman, was persuaded by Goldsmith’s creditable friend Samuel Johnson (the poet and playwright) to stage the play, but Coleman demanded many revisions. Goldsmith later sent thanks to Johnson in a letter describing his anxiety about the script. Click here to read the letter.
4. TRY, TRY AGAIN The play was born out of financial necessity. Oliver Goldsmith was a very generous man who liked to have a good time. He was a lavish gambler and would give to others, beyond his financial means. His first play, The Good Natur’d Man, was only moderately successful. She Stoops to Conquer, his second attempt at play writing, was a critical and financial success, finally getting Goldsmith out of debt. Published in London in 1773, its first print run of 4,000 copies sold out in three days.
5. BACKSTAGE DRAMA The opening night of She Stoops to Conquer started as a train wreck. The leading ladies Mrs. Green (playing Mrs. Hardcastle) and Mrs. Bulkely (playing the daughter, Kate Hardcastle) got into a fight over who would perform the Epilogue (a feminized parody of Shakespeare’s famous Seven Ages of Man monologue from As You Like It). Meanwhile, Goldsmith decided seconds before the curtain speech to change the title of the play from the simplistic, laughable Mistakes of a Night to the more intriguing She Stoops to Conquer. Despite the drama behind the scenes, the comedy She Stoops to Conquer was a triumph when it opened March 15, 1773. Since that time, the play has been one of the most staged and printed English comedies; there have been more than 300 editions since the 1770s.