Pre-Show Preparation, Questions for Discussion, and Activities

Note to Educators: Use the following assignments, questions, and activities to introduce your students to She Stoops to Conquer and its intellectual and artistic origins, context, and themes, as well as to engage their imaginations and creativity before they see the production.

  1. Exploring She Stoops to Conquer, Before the Performance. The questions for discussion and activities immediately below are designed for both teachers able to incorporate the reading of Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer (available for free download online via Project Gutenberg) into their pre-performance curriculum (read Section A, then proceed to C), as well as for those whose students will not have the opportunity to read the entire play in advance of their experience of the performance (begin with Section B).

    1. After reading She Stoops to Conquer either aloud as a class or individually, ask your students to brainstorm a list of themes central to the play.  [See section B for a list of themes.].

    2. Set on one night in and around the eighteenth-century English country home of the Hardcastle family, She Stoops to Conquer looks at the foibles, follies, and deceptions perpetrated by parents and their children, each trying get what they want out of the courtship and marriage game.  At the center of the play is the young but sophisticated Kate Hardcastle who deceives a potential suitor, chosen by her father, with the intention of discovering his true nature; ultimately, she misleads him to win him.  The play comically touches on the following themes/concepts: marriage and courtship; mistaken identity; how things appear to be versus how things are in reality; how falsehood can be used to reveal truth; culture clashes (e.g., country vs. city/urban, working class vs. middle class); generational conflicts (e.g., parent vs. child); and gender roles and the sexual double standard.  Share these themes with your students.

    3. Ask your students to recall and make connections to other plays or works of literature they have read or studied with themes similar to those of She Stoops to Conquer.

    4. Share the various articles and interviews found in this audience resource guide with your students—preferably by reading them aloud as a class or in small groups—to provide an historical and creative context for She Stoops to Conquer in performance.


  2. “An Actor Prepares” a scene from She Stoops to ConquerTo prepare their minds and ears to the joys and challenges of Oliver Goldsmith’s particular brand of eighteenth-century comedy, have your students study Act I, scene i of She Stoops to Conquer.

    • First share the Character Profiles, included in this Audience Resource Guide, with your students.

    • Then, read the scene together as a class for comprehension (reading in the round, alternating lines, will give each student a chance to try out the speech and voices of different characters).  Some words or phrases—especially those more familiar to an eighteenth-century reader—may need to be defined.

    • Next, break your class up into scene-study partners.  The scene (hyperlinked above) has been broken up into shorter “French” scenes 1-4. Student-actor pairs should be assigned a French scene and then decide who will play each character:

      #1   Mrs. Hardcastle, Hardcastle
      #2   Mrs. Hardcastle, Tony
      #3   Hardcastle, Miss Hardcastle
      #4   Miss Hardcastle, Miss Neville

    • Scene-study partners should read their scene aloud once together before getting up to stage it, to get a sense of the characters and the scene overall. 

    • Student-actors should prepare/rehearse their scene for a script-in-hand performance for the class.

    • Following scene performances, lead students in a discussion of their experience rehearsing and performing Questions might include:
      • What are the pleasures and challenges of performing the scene from Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer
      • What insights, if any, did you have regarding the play or the characters did you get from putting the play and its characters on their feet?
      • What insights, if any, did you have regarding the play or the characters did you get from putting the play and its characters on their feet?
      • Was there any moment that felt strange or awkward in bringing your character to life?
      • Given your interaction with the Act I, scene i of She Stoops to Conquer, do you have any thoughts about what might happen in the scenes that follow?


  3. In Context:  The World of Oliver Goldsmith and She Stoops to ConquerTo prepare your students for She Stoops to Conquer and to deepen their level of understanding of and appreciation for the life and times of Oliver Goldsmith, have them research, either in groups or individually, the following topics:

    • Oliver Goldsmith
    • The Good-Natured Man
    • “An Essay on the Theatre; or, a Comparison Between Laughing Comedy and Sentimental Comedy”
    • Goldsmith’s Contemporaries:
      • Richard Brinsley Sheridan
      • Dr. Samuel Johnson
      • George Colman (the Elder)
      • George III
    • Late-eighteenth-century English Theater:
      • The Vicar of Wakefield
      • “The Deserted Village”
      • Popular plays
      • Actors
      • Playhouses
      • Audiences
    • Eighteenth-century Britain:
      • Family life
      • Courtship and marriage customs
      • Country life vs. city life
      • Inns
    • The Marriage Act of 1753

Have students teach one another about their individual or group topics via oral and illustrated (i.e., posters or PowerPoint) reports.  Following the presentations ask your students to reflect upon their research process and discoveries.