Gender Roles in She Stoops to Conquer

It is interesting how gender roles help shape the characters in the play. Miss Hardcastle begins as a very strong woman, resolving to make the best of her situation no matter the circumstances. She follows in her role as a daughter, but it is clear that her focus is on herself. In public, she behaves in a certain way to maintain appearances, but in private she manages a spider web of deception. It is almost like she doesn’t have a regard for potential consequences, “I shall never be able to manage him. What shall I do? Pshaw, think no more of him, but trust to occurrences for success.” She was putting too much thought into the situation, it would be better to just trust her intuition on how to handle the situation. Things will work out favorably for her, somehow they always do! This viewpoint is more mature than we would expect of a character referred to as being “fond of gauze and French frippery”. Her character is being cast as innocent, maybe even an anti-intellectual. It is a surprise then, when her inner dialogue is so mature. She goes on to outwit everyone in the play, proving that she is the most capable of the sexes.


I also found it interesting how Miss Hardcastle is juxtaposed with Mr. Marlow. Miss Hardcastle is deceitful and cunning, where Mr. Marlow is blunt and honest. Mr. Marlow strictly follows his own code of morals and never breaks it. His steadfastness is a quality that Miss Hardcastle finds endearing and thus furthers the comedy, but it is frustrating to watch his naivete in action. There is a good deal of social commentary happening between the two. Miss Hardcastle promotes women being cunning and sneaky and to go “above the role of a woman”. Mr. Marlow’s character is almost satirical. As a man he must stick to his code of behavior. Its almost as if there is only one possible reaction for any given situation. Mr. Marlow would act predictably all of the time. This predictability helps Miss Hardcastle fool him and everyone.


2 thoughts on “Gender Roles in She Stoops to Conquer

  1. You seem to take a gender bias regarding the roles of this play. You express that Miss Hardcastle is sneaky and cunning, almost manipulative and strongly in a negative context. Marlowe, “blunt and honest.” Whereas, I see a young woman who is come of age to be given in marriage and truly wanting to assure that the man she will marry is a man that she truly will love. She shares with her father, her plan only after she sparks something with him, as she can feel his heart when he is not anticipating to be reviewed. “Never trust me, dear papa, but he’s still the modest man I first took him for. You’ll be convince of it as well. as I.” (P. 199) She has a strategy surrounding how she can get the “real” Marlowe, the man she grows to love, and not the person on official business with his head hung low. The idea of conspicuous composition would allow us to see that there is an imagery to uphold. We witness this as the whole house prepares for the visitors and how the visitors have no foresight to see that they are actually the “guest” in the home in which they search. Had they known, their behavior would have been to the utmost difference and change. Therefore Marlowe, is never really blunt he is more confused. As Hasting was more deceitful in the group of characters as well. Mrs Hardcastle was never deceitful. The gender roles played but a small role in the complexity of this humor and fun play.

  2. This post on the adaptability of Miss Hardcastle and women in general in She Stoops to Conquer is very interesting. In the past couple of days, I have re-read and written on somewhere in the neighborhood of ten of Shakespeare’s plays, and though it is possible that my brain is no longer working, I think there are a lot of parallels to be drawn to the women in those works. Characters like the wives of Windsor and Desdemona of Othello definitely come to mind as ones who challenge the more traditional gender roles of their time (about a hundred or so years before She Stoops… was penned). I also think in some ways that Hardcastle’s adaptable nature mirrors Celia in The Lady’s Dressing Room as she is also adapting herself to a social situation by putting on fancier attire than that which she might wear around the house. Likewise, she probably adapts to any household duties she may have by dressing down, so as not to soil the fancy clothing.

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