She Stoops to Conquer

It’s been remarked that in TV situation comedy there are only about six stock characters and about as many basic plots – all else is merely updated slang and set dressing. Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy of mistaken identities (some mistaken and some deliberate) and manners might rightfully be viewed as the source and fountainhead for just about every Brit-com since, save perhaps for Monty Python.

Here’s the local, country-loving lord of the manor, Mr. Hardcastle of Liberty Hall, with his pretty daughter Kate, his grasping and snobbish wife, a sort of Georgian Hyacinth Bucket less the Doulton with hand-painted-periwinkles and her crude and prank-loving son Tony (by a previous marriage), whom she aims to marry off to cousin Constance Neville, and thereby keep Miss Neville’s family jewelry firmly in the Hardcastle family. Coming to visit, with Mr. Hardcastle’s approval, is the son of an old friend, one Charles Marlow – the plan is for him to court Kate, and if they like each other – to marry. Alas for good intentions; Charles Marlow is all assurance when with women of lower social standing, but timid and tongue-tied when in company of women of his own class. And he has a friend with him, George Hastings – who is madly in love with Constance, and plotting to elope with her. Double alas, for Constance refuses to run away without her inheritance – the jewelry which Mrs. Hardcastle will not give up. Or at least, not without a fight. All of this sets the plot into sprightly motion, beautifully shot on location in and around Wiveton Hall, in Norfolk. This DVD version is broken up into six approximately half-hour episodes, which heightens the resemblance to a situation comedy, as the two visiting gentlemen mistake Liberty Hall for an inn, and Kate for a barmaid – among other twists. All together, this is a perfectly enjoyable and accessible romp, through an author not quite as well known these days as he ought to be.
Be advised, though; just as the setting is period perfect, so is the dialogue true to Goldsmith’s lines, which may render it difficult for viewers more accustomed to American modern vernacular to follow.

The one extra feature on this disc set is a documentary on Oliver Goldsmith, his life and time, which at 50 earnest minutes seems as long as all the rest of it put together.

She Stoops to Conquer is available here from Acorn Media.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her most recent book project “The Adelsverein Trilogy” was released in December, 2008 and is available here through More about her books is at her website

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