She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith

Persons in the Play

Mr. Hardcastle


Tony Lumpkin

Kate Hardcastle


Sir Charles Marlow

Mrs. Hardcastle

Constance Neville


Act I

Scene I.Mr. Hardcastle's house. MR. and MRS. Hardcastle.

Mrs. Hardcastle: I vow, Mr. Hardcastle, I hate such old-fashioned trumpery.

Hardcastle: And I love it; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine, and I believe you'll own I've been pretty fond of an old wife.

Mrs. Hardcastle: Oh, you're for ever at your old wife. I'm not so old as you'd make me. I was twenty when my son Tony was born, and he's not come to years of discretion yet.

Hardcastle: Nor ever will, I dare answer; you've taught him finely. Alehouse and stable are his only schools.

Mrs. Hardcastle: Poor boy, anyone can see he's consumptive.

[Tony is heard hallooing.

Hardcastle: Oh, very consumptive!

[Tony crosses, and Mrs. Hardcastle follows him out. Enter Kate Hardcastle.

Hardcastle: Blessings on my pretty innocence! What a quantity of superfluous silk hast thou got about thee, girl!

Kate: But in the evening I am to wear my housewife's dress to please you; you know our agreement, sir.

Hardcastle: By the bye, I shall have to try your obedience this very evening. In fact, Kate, I expect the young gentleman I have chosen to be your husband, this very day; and my old friend his father, Sir Charles Marlow, soon after him. I shall not control your choice, but I am told that he is of an excellent understanding.

Kate: Is he?

Hardcastle: Very generous.

Kate: I believe I shall like him.

Hardcastle: Young and brave.

Kate: I'm sure I shall like him.

Hardcastle: And very handsome.

Kate: Say no more; he's mine.

Hardcastle: And, to crown all, he's one of the most reserved and bashful young fellows in the world.

Kate: That word has undone all the rest, still I think I'll have him. (Exit Hardcastle.) Reserved and sheepish. Can't he be cured? (Enter Miss Neville.) I'm glad you came, my dear. I am threatened with a lover, the son of Sir Charles Marlow.

Miss Neville: The most intimate friend of Mr. Hastings, my admirer; and such a character. Among ladies of reputation the modestest man alive, but with others——

Miss Hardcastle: And has my mother been courting you for my brother Tony, as usual? I could almost love him for hating you so.

Miss Neville: It is a good-natured creature at bottom, and I'm sure would wish to see me married to anyone but himself.


Scene II.An alehouse. Tony Lumpkin carousing with the village riff-raff. Marlow and Hastings arrive, and inquire the way to Mr. Hardcastle's house. Tony tells them they cannot possibly reach the house that night, but directs them to it as an inn.

Tony: The old Buck's Head on the hill, one of the best inns in the whole county. But the landlord is rich and just going to leave off business; so he wants to be thought a gentleman, and will be for giving you his company. Ecod, he'll persuade you that his mother was an alderman, and his aunt a justice of the peace. I'll just step myself, and show you a piece of the way.


Act II

Scene.The hall of Hardcastle's house. Marlow and Hastings have just arrived at the supposed inn, and the supposed innkeeper is paying hospitable attention to their belongings. Enter Marlow and Hastings.

Hastings: Upon my word, a very well-looking house; antique, but creditable.

Marlow: The usual fate of a large mansion. Having just ruined the master by good housekeeping, it at last comes to levy contributions as an inn.

Hastings: Good and bad, you have lived pretty much among them; and yet, with all your experience you have never acquired any show of assurance. How shall you behave to the lady you have come down to visit?

Marlow: As I behave to all other ladies. A barmaid, or a milliner—but to me a modest woman dressed out in her finery is the most tremendous object in creation. An impudent fellow may counterfeit modesty, but I'll be hanged if a modest man can counterfeit impudence. I shall bow very low, answer yes and no, and I don't think I shall venture to look her in the face. The fact is, I have really come down to forward your affair, not mine. Miss Neville loves you, the family don't know you, as my friend you are sure of a reception, and——Here comes mine host to interrupt us.

[Enter Hardcastle.

Hardcastle: Heartily welcome once more, gentlemen; which is Mr. Marlow? Sir, you are heartily welcome.

Marlow: He has got our names from the servants

[Marlow and Hastings converse together, ostentatiously ignoring Hardcastle's attempts to join in with a story of Marlborough at the siege of Denain.

Marlow: My good friend, a glass of that punch would help us to carry on the siege.

Hardcastle: Punch sir! (Aside) This is the most unaccountable kind of modesty I ever met with. Well, here, Mr. Marlow, here's to our better acquaintance.

Marlow: A very impudent fellow, but a character;
I'll humour him. Sir, my service to you. (They drink.)
Well, now, what have you in the house for supper?

Hardcastle: For supper! (Aside) Was ever such a request to a man in his own house!

Marlow: Yes, sir; supper. I begin to feel an appetite.

Hardcastle: Sure, such a brazen dog——Sir, I believe the bill of fare is drawn out; you shall see it. (The menu is produced and discussed in scathing terms. Then Marlow insists on seeing himself that the beds are properly aired.) Well, sir, I will attend you. This may be modern modesty, but I never saw anything so like old-fashioned impudence.

[Exeunt Hardcastle and Marlow.

Hastings: This fellow's civilities begin to grow troublesome. (Enter Miss Neville.) Miss Neville, by all that's happy!

Miss Neville: My dear Hastings!

Hastings: But how could I have hoped to meet my dearest Constance at an inn?

Miss Neville: An inn! You mistake. My aunt, my guardian, lives here. How could you think this house an inn?

Hastings: My friend, Mr. Marlow, and I were directed hither by a young fellow——

Miss Neville: One of my hopeful cousin's tricks.

Hastings: We must keep up the deception with Marlow; else he will fly.

Hastings has planned to elope with Miss Neville; she wishes first to get into her own hands her jewelry, which is in Mrs. Hardcastle's possession. As they complete their plot Marlow enters.

Hastings: My dear Marlow, the most fortunate event! Let me present Miss Constance Neville. She and Miss Hardcastle have just alighted to take fresh horses. Miss Hardcastle will be here directly. Isn't it fortunate?

Marlow: Oh, yes; very fortunate, a most joyful encounter; but our dresses, George! To-morrow will be every bit as convenient. Let it be to-morrow.

Hastings: Pshaw, man! Courage, courage! It is but the first plunge.

[Enter Kate as from a walk. Hastings introduces them.

Kate (after a pause): I am glad of your safe arrival, sir. I am told you had some accidents by the way.

Marlow: A few, madam. Yes, we had some. Yes, a good many. But should be sorry, madam—I mean glad—of any accidents that are so agreeably concluded. George, sure you won't go?

Hastings: You don't consider, man, that we are to manage a little tête-à-tête of our own.

[Exeunt Hastings and Miss Neville.

Marlow: I am afraid, madam, I—hem—grow tiresome.

Kate: Not at all, sir; there is nothing I like so much as grave consideration. You were going to observe——

Marlow: I was about to observe, madam—I was—I protest, I forgot——

Kate: Something about hypocrisy—this age of hypocrisy.

Marlow: Ah, yes. In this age of hypocrisy there are few who—a—a—— But I see Miss Neville expects us; shall I——

Kate: I'll follow you. If I could teach him a little confidence!


Mrs. Hardcastle, Miss Neville, Hastings and Tony enter. In pursuance of their plot, Constance engages Tony in a determined flirtation, to his extreme disgust, while Hastings wins the heart of Mrs. Hardcastle by extravagant flatteries. On the pretext of bringing the "dear, sweet, pretty, provoking, undutiful boy" to a better mind, Hastings gets rid of the ladies, and then offers to take Miss Neville off Tony's hands. Tony joyfully engages to help the elopement, and procure Miss Neville's jewels.


Scene.As before. Enter Tony with a casket.

Tony: Ecod, I've got 'em. Cousin Con's necklaces, bobs and all. My mother shan't cheat the poor souls out of their fortin. Here's (enter Hastings) your sweetheart's  jewels. If I hadn't a key to every drawer in my mother's bureau—— Never you mind me. Zounds, here she comes. Keep 'em. Morrice! Prance!

[Exit Hastings. Enter Miss Neville, and Mrs. Hardcastle, who refuses to let her ward have her jewels.

Mrs. Hardcastle: They are missing, I assure you. My son knows they are missing, and not to be found.

Tony: I can bear witness to that. I'll take my oath on't.

Mrs. Hardcastle: In the meantime you can use my garnets.


Miss Neville: I detest garnets.

Tony: Don't be a fool! If she gives 'em you, take what you can get. I've stolen your jewels out of the bureau. She's found it out, ecod, by the noise. Fly to your spark, and he'll tell you all about it. Vanish!

[Exit Miss Neville.

Kate has reported Marlow's bashfulness to Hardcastle, who has told another tale. She has since learnt Marlow's blunder, and that he has taken her in her "housewife's dress" for the barmaid. She has resolved to test him in this character. She enters at the same time as Marlow, who is studying his notebook.

Kate: Did you call, sir?

Marlow (not looking up): No, child.

Kate: Perhaps it was the other gentleman?

Marlow: No, no, child, I tell you! (Looking up.) That is—yes, I think I did call. I vow, child, you're vastly handsome.

Kate: Oh, la, sir, you'll make me ashamed!

Marlow: Suppose I should call for a taste of the nectar of your lips?

Kate: Nectar? Nectar? We keep no French wines. (He tries to kiss her.) Pray keep your distance. I'm sure you didn't treat Miss Hardcastle so. Are you a favourite among the ladies?

Marlow: Yes, my dear. At the ladies' club up in town they call me their Agreeable Rattle. Do you ever work, child?

Kate: Ay, sure. There's not a screen or a quilt in the house but bears witness to that.

Marlow: You must show me your embroidery.

[As he seizes her hand, Hardcastle enters. Exit Marlow. Kate persuades her father to give her an hour to clear Marlow's character.

Act IV

Scene.As before. Hastings has passed over the jewels to Marlow's care. The unconscious Marlow has told him that the servant by his order has placed them in charge of the landlady. Enter Hardcastle, solus.

Hardcastle: My house is turned topsy-turvy. His servants are drunk already. For his father's sake, I'll be calm. (Enter Marlow.) Mr. Marlow, sir, the conduct of your servants is insufferable. Their manner of drinking is setting a very bad example.

Marlow: I protest, my good friend, that's no fault of mine. They had my positive orders to drink as much as they could.

Hardcastle: Zounds, I shall go distracted! I'll stand it no longer! I desire that you and your drunken pack shall leave my house directly.

Marlow: Leave your house? I never heard such cursed impudence. Bring me my bill.

Hardcastle: Nor I, confound me if ever I did!

Marlow: My bill, I say.

Hardcastle: Young man, young man, from your father's letter I expected a well-bred, modest visitor, not a coxcomb and a bully. But he will be down here presently, and shall hear more of it.


Marlow: How's this? Surely I have not mistaken the house? Everything looks like an inn. The barmaid, too. (Enter Kate.) A word with you, child. Who are you?

Kate: A poor relation, sir, who looks after the guests.

Marlow: That is, you're the barmaid of this inn.

Kate: Inn? Oh, la! What brought that into your head? Old Mr. Hardcastle's house an inn!

Marlow: Mr. Hardcastle's house? Mr. Hardcastle's? So all's out. I shall be laughed at over the whole town. To mistake this house of all others—and my father's old friend. What must he think of me! And may I be hanged, my dear, but I mistook you for the barmaid. I mistook—but it's all over. This house I no more show my face in. By heaven, she weeps! But the difference of our birth, fortune, education—an honorable connection would be impossible, and I would never harbour a thought of any other. Farewell. [Exit.

Kate: He shall not go, if I have power to detain him. I will undeceive my father, and he shall laugh him out of his resolution.


The second couple are about to take flight without the jewels, by Tony's help, when he receives a note from Hastings, which—not knowing its source—he hands to his mother to decipher. She resolves to carry Miss Neville off forthwith, to place her in charge of her old Aunt Pedigree, in the coach prepared for the elopement. Tony being ordered to attend them on horseback, hits on an expedient which he does not reveal, but contents himself with bidding Hastings meet him two hours hence in the garden. The party start on their journey.

Act V

Scene I.Sir Charles Marlow has arrived, and the two elders have been making merry over the blunder; both are now eager for the marriage. But they are mystified by Marlow's assertion that he is indifferent to MISS Hardcastle, and his assertion is corroborated by what Hardcastle saw.

Scene II.The back of the garden. Enter Tony, booted and spurred, meeting Hastings.

Tony: Ecod, five-and-twenty miles in two hours and a half is no such bad driving.

Hastings: But where are your fellow-passengers? Where have you left the ladies?

Tony: Why, where I found 'em! Led 'em astray, man. There's not a pond or a slough within five miles of the place but they can tell the taste of; and finished with the horsepond at the back of the garden. Mother's confoundedly frightened, and thinks herself forty miles off. So now, if your own horses be ready, you can whip off with my cousin, and no one to budge an inch after you.

Hastings: My dear friend, how can I be grateful.


Tony: Here she comes—got up from the pond.

[Enter Mrs. Hardcastle.

Mrs. Hardcastle: Oh, Tony, I'm killed—shook—battered to death! That last jolt has done for me. Whereabouts are we?

Tony: Crackskull Common by my guess, forty miles from home. Don't be afraid. Is that a man galloping behind us? Don't be afraid.

Mrs. Hardcastle: Oh, there's a man coming! We are undone!

Tony (aside): Father-in-law, by all that's unlucky! Hide yourself, and keep close; if I cough it will mean danger.

[Enter Hardcastle.

Hardcastle: I am sure I heard voices. What, Tony? Are you back already? (Tony laughs.)

Mrs. Hardcastle (running forward): Oh, lud; he'll murder my poor boy! Here, good gentleman, whet your rage on me. Take my money, take my life, good Mr. Highwayman, but spare my child.

Hardcastle: Sure, Dorothy, you have lost your wits? This is one of your tricks, you graceless rogue. Don't you remember me, and the mulberry-tree, and the horsepond?

Mrs. Hardcastle: I shall remember it as long as I live. And this is your doing—you——

Tony: Ecod, mother, all the parish says you've spoilt me, so you may take the fruits on't.


Miss Neville thinks better of the elopement, and resolves to appeal to Mr. Hardcastle's influence with his wife. This improved plan is carried to a successful issue, with great satisfaction to Tony Lumpkin.

Scene III.The hall. Sir Charles Marlow and Hardcastle witness, from concealment, the formal proposal of Marlow to make the supposed "poor relation" his wife. They break in.

Sir Charles: Charles, Charles, how thou hast deceived me! Is this your indifference?

Hardcastle: Your cold contempt? Your formal interview? What have you to say?

Marlow: That I'm all amazement. What does it mean?

Hardcastle: It means that you say and unsay things at pleasure; that you can address a lady in private and deny it in public; that you have one story for us and another for my daughter.

Marlow: Daughter? This lady your daughter? Oh, the devil! Oh—!

Kate: In which of your characters may we address you? The faltering gentleman who looks on the ground and hates hypocrisy, or the bold, forward Agreeable Rattle of the ladies' club?

Marlow: Zounds, this is worse than death! I must
be gone.

Hardcastle: But you shall not! I see it was all a mistake. She'll forgive you; we'll all forgive you. Courage, man! And if she makes as good a wife as she has a daughter, I don't believe you'll ever repent your bargain. So now to supper. To-morrow we shall gather all the poor of this parish about us; the mistakes of the night shall be crowned with a merry morning.