‘Through a close analysis of the presentation of at least two of the plays male characters, show how Goldsmith presents attitudes towards women in the play’ Oliver Goldsmith has cleverly composed an exceptionally successful comedic play, belonging to the Pastoral Genre, comprising of many key themes and ideas including that of the attitudes of males toward females, the social divide between the lower and upper class and the idea of progress and tradition.
Through the numerous linguistic and dramatic devices including dramatic incitement and comedic language, Goldsmith is able to portray the attitudes displayed by the male characters such as Mr Hardcastle, Charles Marlow and George Hastings towards women within the play. Firstly, the fictitious Mr Hardcastle shows varying attitudes towards women in the play. We initially see a very traditional and prude attitude towards his daughter, Kate Hardcastle.
Goldsmith implies that Mr Hardcastle has a very traditional, typically pastoral view towards women in the sense that they should be the pinnacle of youth and beauty, but also very pure and simple, all attributes which relate back to the pastoral. This is shown when Mr Hardcastle encourages Kate to dress in what he believes to be appropriate- ‘Blessings on my pretty innocence! Drest out as usual, my Kate. Goodness! What quantity of superfluous silk has thou got about thee, girl! In this sense, we see Mr Hardcastle appear very traditional and extremely authoritative over Kate, suggesting a strict attitude. Mr Hardcastle appears to believe that his orders should be followed by the women, as he has power over them once again implying that women are innocent, pure and a reflection of Eve, revealing key elements to the pastoral. Although within the Exposition stage of the play, we see Kate abide by her fathers wishes- ‘in the evening, I put on my house-wife’s dress to please you’, Mr Hardcastle displays an alternative attitude over women, implying he is very respectful and caring.
This is shown when he informs Kate- ‘If he be what he has shewn himself, I’m determined he shall never have my consent’, suggesting that although Mr Hardcastle upholds extremely traditional values, he is willing to put them aside to ensure the happiness of his daughter, displaying a more modernised, protective attitude towards women. Goldsmith is able to show attitudes towards women through the character of Charles Marlow. In the Complication stage of the play, Goldsmith introduces ‘Comedy of Manners’, which explores codes of behaviour in sections of upper and middle class to display Marlow’s conflicting attitudes towards women.
As we see Kate transform and disguise into a lower class barmaid, the audience are equally surprised to see the change in Marlow’s behaviour and attitude as he goes from being a nervous, ‘bumbling fool’, to an over confident, boastful man, who is certainly not shy around women of a lower class, often treating them with an air of great disrespect, as though they are merely a possession to him- ‘I vow, child, you are vastly handsome’.
Marlow appears to have a differing attitude depending on the class in which women belong. As he greets Kate as someone who belongs to the upper class, he is respectful and has a gentlemanly manner, referring to her as ‘Madam’. Through this we see Marlow appear to be very insecure and intimidated, suggesting that he has an enormous sense of inferiority when it comes to upper class women.
Despite this, Marlow displays a change in attitude towards the female character of Kate when she disguises herself as a barmaid, suggesting he views women as being merely a possession for men to do what they wish- ‘If you keep me at this distance, how is it possible you and I can ever be acquainted’. Through this characterisation, Goldsmith presents ‘class conflict’, masked with an element of comedy and farce to reveal Marlow’s view upon women. Finally, Goldsmith presents a very traditional view upon women through the characterisation of George Hastings.
From the exposition of the play, we learn that Hastings is deeply in love with Miss Constance Neville, whom he is desperate to marry. Hastings appears to be attracted to Constance initially because of her undoubtable beauty and youth, purity and innocence, which are all aspect of pastoral. As Constance informs Hastings that she cannot marry him until she has claimed her jewels, we see that Hastings wants to be the one to provide for her, suggesting a traditional and protective attitude, as he states materialistic goods are not needed- ‘Perish all the baubles!
Your person is all I desire’. Goldsmith presents a romantic, optimistic attitude over women and marriage in the view of Hastings. Despite this, we also learn that Hastings views women as something with which he can relieve his teasing and flirtatious nature, which is shown when he is seen complimenting Mrs Hardcastle with sarcasm- ‘extremely elegant and degagee, upon my word, Madam’.
With the use of ‘Parody’, Hastings implies that although he upholds traditional values, he views women to be gullible creatures, whom he can mock and tease, although in a light hearted and mischievous, comedic sense. Overall, through the use of dramatic incitement, characterisation and various types of comedy including Parody, Farce and Comedy of Manners, Goldsmith has cleverly presented the typical attitude males had over women at the time in which the play was written.
All of the male characters within the play share similar attitudes in the sense that they have power and status over the women within the play, as they are typically viewed as being innocent and pure in a pastoral sense, however in some ways the audience will see that this is beginning to change as women’s roles are evolving. At times women appear to be more powerful than the men within the play, such as how Kate is able to deceive and trick Marlow into believing she was a barmaid. Goldsmith has presented a traditional, yet respectful attitude towards women through the play in its entirety.
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