Unlike some of the dramas I've had to read, this one actually seems modern, if for no other reason than the characters are given real names -- Mrs. Hardcastle, for example, isn't called Mrs. Idiot. Goldsmith can't bring himself to fully abandon the device -- the dancing master is named Cripplegate -- but at least we never see these characters.
It occurs to me that it's a good thing this obvious-naming tradition has died out in the theater since there's so many agitprop plays -- the last thing they need is for characters to be named things like General Warren Monger. Of course, the funny-name tradition is universal, as I saw on the Daily Show last night (WARNING: Extremely juvenile):
Anyway, Goldsmith's craft is to be admired here also. It's a little pipey here in the beginning, but the mama-who-spoils-her-son motif is right there on page two:
Mrs. Hard. Humour, my dear; nothing but humour. Come, Mr. Hardcastle, you must allow the boy a little humour.It's not actually funny, but if you brought it into a room it could be made funny. And, in fact, after the characters come out and, in conversation, "happen" to tell us about how rich they are and what peculiar plot-inciting eccentricities they might have, the act ends on a very sitcomy note: the scamp Tony (he of nailing the wig to the back of the chair), tells the Londoners that the great house they're going to meet their future wives is in fact an inn. An Inn! What comic consequences born out of misperception might then result!
Hard. I’d sooner allow him a horse-pond. If burning the footmen’s shoes, frightening the maids, and worrying the kittens be humour, he has it. It was but yesterday he fastened my wig to the back of my chair, and when I went to make a bow, I popt my bald head in Mrs. Frizzle’s face.
Mrs. Hard. And am I to blame? The poor boy was always too sickly to do any good. A school would be his death. When he comes to be a little stronger, who knows what a year or two’s Latin may do for him?
Plus there's a drinking song:
| When methodist preachers come down,|
A-preaching that drinking is sinful,
|I’ll wager the rascals a crown,|
|They always preach best with a skinful.|
|But when you come down with your pence,|
|For a slice of their scurvy religion,|
|I’ll leave it to all men of sense,|
|But you, my good friend, are the Pigeon.|
|Toroddle, toroddle, toroll.|
Note the small "m" on methodist -- the denomination hadn't been invented yet (being a Religious Studies major is lots of fun). Also, "toroddle toroddle" is also a little out of style -- kids these days with their "toroddle toroddle" music, am I right?
I think I may steal this plot (which you don't the full sense of in the excerpt -- but I looked it up) the next time I need an episode idea. And then I can claim I bought the set of Harvard Classics and write it off.