"the Dullissimo Maccaroni": Masculinities in She Stoops to conquer."

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
James E. Evans, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: In act 4 of Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer (1773), Charles Marlow suddenly discovers the deception practiced on him when he learns that Liberty Hall, Mr. Hardcastle’s house, is not an inn. His immediate response includes not only personal embarrassment regarding his father’s friend—“What a swaggering puppy must he take me for. What a silly puppy do I find myself”—but also the expectation of public humiliation: “O, confound my stupid head, I shall be laugh’d at over the whole town. I shall be stuck up in caricatura in all the print-shops. The Dullissimo Maccaroni.”1 The personal reaction reveals Marlow as the typical adulescens of traditional comedy, the immature young man that illustrates Goldsmith’s generalized description of the form, described in an essay in the Westminster Magazine to prepare audiences’ reception of his so-called “laughing comedy”: “that natural portrait of Human Folly and Frailty, of which all are judges, because all have sat for the picture.”2 As part of his agenda to restore the humor supposedly missing from the stage, Goldsmith seems to have convinced readers for two centuries to approach his play primarily in more universal terms and largely to ignore the possibility of situating Marlow and other male characters more fully in British cultural history of the 1770s. However, in the midst of “making an audience merry,” as his friend Samuel Johnson described the play’s effect, Goldsmith also makes serious use of a topical social phenomenon.3 Marlow’s fear of caricature engages the discourse about British masculinities in which the macaroni was a distinctive and negative figure, and his anxious words indicate a satiric perspective on the macaroni craze in the early years of this decade. By making Marlow a potential macaroni, Goldsmith also represents the larger stakes involved in this discourse, which Tim Hitchcock and Michèle Cohen describe as “the diversity of ways in which men constructed and thought about themselves, and deployed those facets of self-identity in their relations with other men and women.”4

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
masculinity, oliver goldsmith, literature, literary review, British culture

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