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 high society is his lack of experience.
Where could I have learned that assurance you talk of? My life has been chiefly spent in college, or an inn...I don't know that I was aquainted with a single modest woman - except my mother - but among females of another class you know. . . (II. 13 .12-16)
According to Nelson, the mentioning of Marlow's mother along with modest women draws a connection between two: a connection that when made, draws into it Goldsmith's own feelings. "Indeed, the Freudian explanation for Marlow's shyness appears much more plausible than the pragmatic one based on the circumstances of his teenage years." (322) If Marlow had been living in colleges and inns, social opportunities would've been great, and interim periods at home...