Americans who aren’t familiar with Irish dramatist Oliver Goldsmith’s work may do well to begin with the hourlong extra on this DVD, "A Gooseberry Fool: Oliver Goldsmith Stoops to Conquer," as it contextualizes his humor and summarizes what was happening in the 18th century theater world. However, diving straight in, one will get plenty of the jokes and enjoy the ironic twists that this comedy of errors from 1773 is packed with. She Stoops to Conquer
adapts well to a filmed series broken into five hour-long episodes, and may even be more exciting off-stage, in outdoor and countryside settings. The story weaves together tales of three couples who fall in and out of love, who quibble and make up, and who are confounded by the opposite sex to varying degrees. Mr. Hardcastle (Ian Redford) and his wife, Dorothy (Polly Hemingway), are the elder characters reflecting on changing times. While Hardcastle clings to tradition, his wife supports modernization, and welcomes the increasing numbers of visitors from London who come through their small town. One of these visitors, the intelligent but shy Charles Marlow (Mark Dexter), comes in pursuit of the Hardcastle’s daughter, Kate (Susannah Fielding). From the moment Marlow and his suave friend, George Hastings (Joseph Thompson), arrive in town, their bumbling efforts to win Kate and her girlfriend, Constance (Holly Gilbert), become the main thrust of the plot. Episode two, for example, focuses on George and Charles’ mistaking Liberty Hall, the Hardcastle residence, for an inn, thanks to Kate’s spoiled, troublemaking brother, Tony Lumpkin (Miles Rupp). The ways in which they insult Mr. Hardcastle are hilarious. By episodes four and five, though, Kate is having all the fun, tricking Marlow into thinking she is a barmaid. Part tease and part sincere effort to test their compatibility, Kate’s antics confound the couple’s parents, as well as their friends, to humorous effect. In viewing She Stoops to Conquer
, one wonders if Kate isn’t slightly nodding to William Shakespeare’s shrew by the same name. In the biopic, the narrator claims that Goldsmith did aim for "boisterous" humor, as backlash against what he called "bland, sentimental" comedy. Perhaps this playwright’s way of allowing bawdier moments to exist without "refinement" is what has helped this story survive into contemporary times, with great success..--Trinie Dalton
Oliver Goldsmith’s classic comedy of errors
Boisterous and brimming with energy, Oliver Goldsmith’s funniest and most famous play finds new life in this scrupulously faithful screen adaptation. The plot centers on Kate--a well-bred, whip-smart lass who passes herself off as a barmaid to win the heart of her stuffy suitor. Full of mistaken identities and multiple deceptions, the play pokes fun at the various masks we all wear in social situations and proves as relevant now as it did when it debuted in 1773. Along the way, Goldsmith’s conniving characters learn much about the nature of true love.
Filmed entirely at a 17th-century English manor house, this production escapes the confines of the stage and enlivens Goldsmith’s witty text in every scene. The stellar cast includes Mark Dexter (The Bill, From Hell), Roy Marsden (Devices and Desires), acclaimed newcomer Susannah Fielding, and veteran stage actors Polly Hemingway and Ian Redford.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURE INCLUDES A Gooseberry Fool: Oliver Goldsmith Stoops to Conquer, a lively 50-minute documentary on the writer’s life, work, and humor.