An observer of life?

“I have lived, indeed, in the world, madam; but I have kept little company,” Marlow says to Kate in Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer.” “I have been but an observer upon life, madam, while others were enjoying it.”

I recently saw the play performed at Shakespeare in the Park in Dallas, and I was intrigued by Marlow’s observation that he was watching while others were enjoying life.

I sometimes do the same.

Many literary experts consider this to be one of the central themes of the play: Is it better to stay a little removed from life, watching and observing, or is it better to live life fully in the midst of its complexity and absurdity?

Oliver Goldsmith, apparently, thought that the best option is to live life, but also to step back occasionally to watch and laugh at life’s absurdity and complexity. A little moderation, please. It’s not a simple black-and-white choice.

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