Criticism of Goldsmith’s, She Stoops to Conquer
In reading T.G.A. Nelson's critical essay "Stooping to Conquer in Goldsmith, Haywood and Wycherley" I have to say I that I was pretty scared. Drawing Freud to anything can really be scary according to almost anyone though, certainly in early criticism of "She Stoops to Conquer." As Bernard Harris says, "we should not discount unconscious forces in any comedy", but then he immediately drops the subject saying that "Goldsmith's main interest lies elsewhere."(325) The main focus of Nelson's essay seemed to be on the difficulty that certain men seemed to find "in achieving a satisfactory sexual relationship with a woman resembling the mother. "(319) This essay will look at what Nelson has to say about this Freudian ideology and bring to light my comments on the subject.
Nelson begins by looking into some of Freud's essays and applying them to the characteristics describing the "Restoration rake. "(320) One example is how there is compulsive repetition in his relationships. Passionate attachments are formed again and again creating a long line of lovers. The preference for married women is also there, where another man claim the right of possession of her and yet the rake prefers her to one who is "disengaged. " Taking Goldsmith's play, Nelson uses it as the clearest example of Freud's theory. In his play, the character Marlow is very forthright in his dealings with those in a lower station, but with women of quality he becomes shy. Evidently, women of low social standing fail to qualify as 'modest women' for him and this fits closely into "Freud's description of the sufferer of selective impotence. "(322) Reading further it's found that the reason Marlow is so shy with those of hi...
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... such an approach to a comedy traditionally, if tacitly, regarded as bland, inoffensive, and largely devoid of sexual content."(326) I applaud Nelson for the work and research he put into his essay; and I'm not saying that just because a play is a comedy, it can't have underlying feelings of repression or other factors involved in its creation. It's just on general principal then, having read Goldsmith's play and enjoyed it for itself while noting possibilities for his commenting on social/class order or the differences between city and country life, that I set aside Nelson's criticism of the play and leave it as it stands, untouched by Freudian ideology.
Goldsrnith, Oliver. She Stoops to Conquer. Dover Publications, NY: 1991
Nelson, T.G.A. "Stooping to Conquer in Goldsmith. Haywood. and Wycherley." Essays in Criticism. Oxford University Press.