Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer: Mr. Hardcastle and Mrs. Hardcastle - Comic Pair Contributing Fun and Laughter



“Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit” (He touched nothing that he did not adorn).
(A memorial to Oliver Goldsmith in Westminster Abbey) 
The inscription, written by Dr. Johnson 

Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer is a witty comedy and it has as usual, five youths- Marlow, Hastings, Kate, Constance and Tony Lumpkin- at the centre of it. But this is not to say that the two old figures are pushed to the back ground. Mr. Hardcastle and his wife Mrs. Hardcastle are no insignificant. Rather, they make a comic pair contributing largely to the fun and laughter of the play. While the two characters are haply related to each other, they have points of divergence, and may go to the extent of pointing out that Mr. Hardcastle is a foil to his wife.

Mr. Hardcastle is an aged fellow, but age has not been able to detract him from his energy and vitality. At this point one may note that the character of Hardcastle serves or a rejoinder to Horace’s view of character pointing. Horace says that an old man ought to be so painted that he must look beset with anxiety and melancholy, cheerless and somewhat grave. But Goldsmith gives us the character of an old man who is far from being melancholy and depressed, overflowing with gaiety and jollity.




Mr. Hardcastle had occasion to serve in the army. He still retains the smartness of a soldier. He mixes freely with his servants. But this is not to say that his indulgent approach to his servants ever crosses the line of discipline. While he loves his servants, they, in turn, hold him in great respect. He tells old stories to his servants who enjoyed the stories and burst into hearty laughter. 

While Hardcastle is an old man, old things always fascinate him. He says, “I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.” Being a representative, he ‘demonstrates an older tradition of satirical quality and artistic adroitness that was to be anathema to a younger generation.’ So much so his old fashioned mansion resembles an inn. He knows that his wife has taste which does not accord with his own taste. But that does not make him unhappy nor does he try to change her testes and outlook. He is quit tolerant man and his love for his wife pure and profound. His daughter Kate is almost his friend. He knows that Kate is fond of new fashions and finery. He does not object to her learning to modernity. He only makes an agreement with her. Toney’s mischievous tricks often irritate him, but that does not make him hard and antagonist to him. For he knows that it is Mrs. Hardcastle whose indulgent treatment is responsible for Tony’s mischief-mongering. In fact, Mr. Hardcastle, a man of humour and jollity adds to the development of the plot. 

Bubbles of Joy !!!!!!
Mrs. Hardcastle is a foolish woman who seems to have much affinity with Mrs. Malaprop. Unlike her husband, she is eager to follow modern fashions. What makes her unhappy is the fact that she remains confined in the countryside, while various change in fashion take place in the modern area. Another important feature of her character is that through she is quit aged; she wants to pass for a young woman. While she is fifty eight, she says that she is forty. While Mr.Hardcastle is honest and broad-hearted, Mrs.Hardcastle is somewhat crafty and greedy.


The two characters, Mr.Hardcastle and his wife, Mrs.Hardcastle make a pair, the impact of which on the comic aspect of the play is considerable. It is they who participate in funny intrigues, prouder humour and make the play a delicious feast of laughter and jest.