"Dekker's Use of Serious Elements in Comedy: The Shoemakers' Holiday,"

Critic: Peggy Faye Shirley
Source: Serious and Tragic Elements in the Comedy of Thomas Dekker, Institut für Englishe Sprach und Literatur, 1975, pp. 12-36.



[(essay date 1975) In the following essay, Shirley explores Dekker's mixture of gravity and levity in his depiction of situations and characters in The Shoemaker's Holiday.]

Fredson Bowers notes in connection with The Shoemakers' Holiday, "On 15 July 1599 Henslowe had advanced £3 towards buying the book from Dekker, but the first recorded performance is that at court on 1 January 1600";1 the first quarto, not listed in the Stationers' Register, is dated 1600. The quarto copy, Professor Bowers points out, did not carry the dramatist's name on the title-page; the Dekker critic feels, however, that the information from Henslowe's diary and internal evidence from the play itself form a sufficient basis for attributing the play solely to Dekker, and he draws from his own previous study2 which concluded that an attempt to establish a theory of collaboration with Robert Wilson in the writing of this play was based on a forgery by J. Payne Collier.3

Professor Bowers' edition of Dekker's drama includes the short introductory piece addressed to all who follow the shoemaker's trade that refers to the presentation of the play before Elizabeth on New Year's Day in 1600. What is, perhaps, Dekker's first comment on the nature of comedy is contained in this foreword:

... I present you here with a merrie conceited Comedie. ... Take all in good worth that is well intended, for nothing is purposed but mirth, mirth lengthneth long life. ...4

This purpose is, in fact, what Dekker ultimately achieves in The Shoemakers's Holiday, for the overall effect of the play is one of pleasure, good fun, a sense of well-being in seeing everything work out satisfactorily. This predominant tone is interrupted in a few places where Dekker, in order to remind his audience that reality involves moments of sensations other than pleasure, introduces scenes of sober weight. Even in these cases, however, Dekker makes his point and then uses some comic situations to return his spectators to the light-hearted mood he intends for them to enjoy.

The foreword of the play is succeeded by two songs presented in Professor Bowers' edition before the text of the play;5 no evidence within the text itself points out the place in which each should properly appear.6 Of these two, the first "Three-mans Song" presents the traditional picture of the young man who, even as he begs his love to listen while he tells of his love for her, suspects that she may prove unfaithful; the second song is a drinking song. The two are brought into this discussion because the use of such songs is often included in studies of the elements referred to as comic devices.7

After the central problem of the play--the love of Lacy and Rose for one another and the opposition of each one's family to the marriage--has been presented, the reader is introduced to a group of characters whose antics supply much of the play's buffoonery. Simon Eyre--the head of this group and the man whose promotions to sheriff and, finally, to Lord Mayor connect him with the characters of nobler rank in more than a proprietor-clientéle relationship--performs the necessary introduction of his cohorts. As he presents a petition to Lacy and Askew, he says

... I am Simon Eyre, the mad Shoomaker of Towerstreete, this wench with the mealy mouth that will neuer tire, is my wife I can tel you, heres Hodge my man, and my foreman, heres Firke my fine firking iourneyman, and this is blubbered Iane, al we come to be suters for this honest Rafe. ...8

These figures, although they sometimes serve as foils to draw attention to events among the gentry or to emphasize them, are individually important to the action of the play. The traits mentioned in the descriptive epithets of Eyre's introduction become more pronounced in the characters's personalities as the play advances; often it is the emphasis on or exaggeration of these very traits that makes the figures comical.

With the petition for his dismissal from military service denied, Rafe finds he must leave his newly wed Jane; the stage is, thus, prepared for their parting. The event should normally be a solemn affair--Jane may never see her husband again, and they have been married only a brief time. Yet Rafe's parting gift--not a ring, a jewel, or a kerchief, but a pair of shoes with Jane's name printed on them--is so out of order as far as romantic tradition is concerned that the scene is laughable rather than saddening. The audience is accustomed to a lover's farewell request that his beloved often take out the blade or jewel he has given her at parting and that she think about him as she turns over in her hands the object involved; to such an audience the request by Rafe that Jane think of him every morning as she pulls on the shoes he presents to her is indecorous enough to make the occasion considerably less than heart-rending. Dekker has, thus, taken a potentially grave situation and, by means of indecorum, caused his audience to accept it as a comic affair.

A new scene follows this incident, and it begins with the introduction of Rose, Lacy's beloved. She weaves a garland of flowers for him, lamenting her father's protective measures which have separated her from her sweetheart. The audience follows her speech, but before the despair of her situation can take effect on her listeners, her maid Sybil comes in and disrupts whatever empathy may have been building. Again, then, a potentially sober incident has been directed toward a comic resolution--in this case by means of the presentation of the flippant Sybil. This young woman is a carefree individual; she is interested in her mistress's welfare, but she is more interested in the prizes she gets as rewards for running errands. Somehow seriousness never touches Sybil; she continues to function on the surface, and her shallow attitude keeps the gravity of Rose's situation from touching the audience. This discussion of Sybil's frivolous manner, however, is not intended to imply that without her presence Rose's speech would work an Aristotelian catharsis of pity; Rose has a problem, yes, but her speech grows more and more hyperbolic until it becomes artificial. She ends with these lines springing from the recognized melancholic lover tradition:

... wretched I
Will sit and sigh for his [Lacy's] lost companie.

(I, ii, 63-4)

The audience realizes her grief is overdone and, thus, does not become caught up in the kind of vicarious despair that viewers of a tragic situation often, at least temporarily, experience during the unfolding of a drama. The prevailing comic mood therefore triumphs again, or at least it fails to yield to a real display of despair where Rose's plight is concerned.

Disguise is an agent frequently used in comedy, and it is responsible for a large number of the amusing situations in Dekker's Shoemakers' Holiday. Lacy cannot openly woo Rose for two reasons: (1) there is opposition to his courtship of a girl from a lower social class, and (2) he has been given a commission in the king's army and is, therefore, supposed to be in France. Not to be thwarted in his pursuit of Rose, however, the young nobleman dons the guise of a shoemaker and plans to become an apprentice to Simon Eyre. In explaining his disguise to the audience, Dekker's character finds an opportunity to employ the twofold purpose of comedy mentioned by Sir Philip Sidney9 and reiterated later by John Dennis10--to "instruct" as well as to "delight." Lacy addresses love and expresses the following philosophical argument:

O loue, how powerfull art thou, that canst change
High birth to barenesse, and a noble mind,
To the meane semblance of a shooemaker?

(I, iii, 10-2)

This address is part of a speech similar to the one by Rose mentioned earlier. Lacy's distress over the opposition to his courting and marrying Rose is offset, too, by the entrance of blustering comic figures. This time it is the banter among Simon Eyre and his crew, following immediately upon Lacy's exit from stage, that keeps the audience from dwelling on any mournful tone connected with the injustice of Lacy's separation from Rose.

In the midst of the clamor that is supposedly the normal state around Eyre's shop, Lacy enters in his shoemaker's garb. He calls himself Hans and speaks a Dutch dialect that adds to the humor of his character for these reasons: (1) it is a garbled imitation of the dialect it represents; and (2) Simon's hands do not understand the foreign speech, and they comment on the language among themselves.11

The next incident that adds material to the comic structure of the play is found in a scene with Rose; Sybil; Hammon, "... a proper gentleman, a citizen by birth ..." (II, ii, 58-59); and his brother-in-law Warner. The two men have come onto the grounds of Old Ford, the estate where Rose has been confined, to search for a deer they have sighted. The whole scene is line after line of witty repartée loaded with puns and fired back and forth as Hammon and Warner shift the object of their pursuit from the deer to Rose and Sybil. The men are serious in their attempts to woo the ladies, but Rose and Sybil thwart them at every turn with joking or sarcasm. The following lines of dialogue exemplify the verbal attack Hammon and Warner have to endure:

Came not a bucke this way?

No, but two Does.

(II, ii, 13)

Which way [did the deer flee] my sugar-candie, can you shew?

Come vp good honnisops, vpon some, no.

(II, ii, 26-27)

A deere, more deere is found within this place.

But not the deere (sir) which you had in chace.

(II, ii, 30-31)

What kind of hart is that (deere hart) you seeke?

A hart, deare hart.

(II, ii, 37-38)

To loose your heart, it's possible you can?

My heart is lost.

Alacke good gentleman.

This poore lost hart would I wish you might find.

You by such lucke might proue your hart a hind.

Why Lucke had hornes, so haue I heard some say.

Now God and't be his wil send Luck into your way.

(II, ii, 39-44)

The audience here feels some sympathy for Hammon because he is ignorant of his position as the butt of Rose's pointed remarks. The sympathy, however, is not allowed to run to any depth because the listeners know that Rose belongs to Lacy. They know, therefore, that her apparently inhumanly apathetic treatment of Hammon does not make her a cold, scheming woman; she is capable of love, and she loyally bears that love for no one but Lacy. Hammon himself cannot be taken too seriously, either, because having failed to win Rose, he is going to turn his mind quickly toward the pursuit of Jane; later when he is faced with the fact that Jane has a live husband whom she loves, he will try to buy her from that husband. Members of the audience, then, having no sincerity of character before them that is worthy of their sympathy are able to join in the lightheartedness that is the prevailing quality of the drama.

Another reason for the audience's not dwelling on Hammon's plight is that immediately following the scene of the verbal battle, there is a scene at Eyre's shop involving the witty characters Firke and Hodge; these two, having been bested by their master's wife, are threatening to leave the business. They have used this threat before--to persuade Eyre to employ Hans as an apprentice--and the picture here, as in the first case, is almost that of two spoiled children who are going to run away from home unless their father does whatever is necessary to comfort them. Of course the spectators are going to enjoy this situation, particularly when the swaggering Eyre does take it upon himself to smooth out things for his apprentices.

Hammon, in the time lapse since he was last seen, has come to the point where he must declare his love for Rose openly. He tells her straightforwardly that he loves her--"... dearer than my heart ..." (III, i, 11)--but her reaction is the same verbal parrying to which he was subjected in their first encounter with each other. Rose's father offers to force his daughter to accept the proposal, but Hammon rejects the prospect of "enforced love" (III, i, 50). As previously mentioned, he announces that he will direct his attention in the future to another:

There is a wench keepes shop in the old change,
To her will I, it is not wealth I seeke,
I haue enough, and wil preferre her loue
Before the world. ...

(III, i, 51-54)

The next set of circumstances that allows the audience to enjoy the spirit of comedy is that connected with the preparation of the Eyre household to accept a change in social status--Simon is about to be appointed "Shiriffe," (III, ii, 15) and his wife especially is concerned about the adjustments she feels she must make in order to fill the position of an official's wife. When sophisticated terms such as "compendious" and "tedious" (III, ii, 8) creep into her previously vulgar--often bawdy--speech, the shoemakers are quick to note the change. Firke, for example, comments on the incongruity between her new speech pattern and her natural manner:

O rare, your excellence is full of eloquence, how like a new carte wheele my dame speakes, and she lookes like an old musty ale-bottle going to scalding.

(III, ii, 9-11)

In addition to her speech, her clothes and hair style become objects of conversation; she wants to be sure that these aspects of her appearance, too, suit her advanced social rank. Firke and Hodge continue to tease her, but she misses the point of the remarks leveled at her vanity. Some of these remarks are spoken in "Asides," but some of the failure to comprehend is the result of ignorance on her part, a factor that adds to the humor.

The comic principle at work here is that which involves pretense, the act of assuming an appearance different from the one that belongs to the individual naturally. Spectators laugh as they watch Margery attempt to "be what she is not" because her pose is so strikingly artificial, so affected in its manner. The people around her know her so well that such marked deviation in her behavior lets them know what she is doing. They laugh because they realize that she is performing, acting out a role. The members of the audience laugh for two reasons: (1) they, too, see Margery acting and are amused at the incongruity of her behavior with her birth; and (2) they hear and understand the remarks of Firke and Hodge, and they laugh because the import of the wit does not touch Margery (because of her mental obtuseness or because of her desire to ignore the barbs which would point out the foolishness of her pretension).

In a later scene, a gathering at the Lord Mayor's estate, Margery approaches her husband with her philosophy of behavior dictated by social status. Simon's answer--a clear statement of his negative opinion regarding acting unnaturally among his associates--is included in the following passage from the scene:

L. Ma.
Now by my troth Ile tel thee maister Eyre,
It does me good and al my breatheren,
That such a madcap fellow as thy selfe
Is entred into our societie.

I but my Lord, hee must learne nowe to putte on grauitie.

Peace Maggy, a fig for grauitie, when I go to
Guildhal in my scarlet gowne, Ile look as
demurely as a saint, and speake as grauely as
a Iustice of a peace, but now I am here at old
Foord, at my good Lord Maiors house, let it
go by, vanish Maggy, Ile be merrie, away
with flip flap, these fooleries, these
gulleries: what hunnie: prince am I none,
yet am I princly borne. ...

(III, iii, 7-17)

Simon Eyre has some definite ideas about the manner in which he is to bear himself while he is performing the duties of his new office. He is not, however, going to allow the behavior thus defined to take the place of his normal patterns of conduct among his friends. Margery attempts to play the role of Lord Mayor's wife among her familiars, and she is made to look foolish because of her behavior. Simon Eyre wants to be no other when he is with those who expect him to be Simon Eyre; he reserves his official bearing for those situations in which he is expected to present a dignified appearance.

The entrance of Rafe, lamed from some military encounter, adds an element to the play that, considered in itself, is serious. Here Dekker is using one of the themes about which he personally seems to have had strong sentiments--the plight of the neglected soldier. Rafe comes in, and his crippled state becomes the object of various jokes and puns. The laughter is there, but it is not really the same kind of lighthearted, enjoyable laughter as that connected with the squabbles among Eyre's apprentices. From passages in some of Dekker's other plays,12 it is apparent that Rafe is only one of many soldiers who were returning from war injured--in a number of cases too crippled to work. Rafe is fortunate; his wound, even compounded by the misery of finding that no one knows where his wife Jane has gone, will not lead him to have to beg for a living. Since he is a shoemaker by trade, he works with his hands; the leg wound that would cost many their jobs does not put Rafe out of work. The audience attending this play would be familiar with the many soldiers who depended on society for their existence. These spectators would laugh warmheartedly with the character in the play because he is the victor, not the object of despair in the situation; nevertheless, they would not fail to catch Dekker's reference to a condition that was a very real problem to many.

What the dramatist has done in this scene is to introduce into his comedy a sobering reminder of actuality; he handles the event in such a manner, however, that the confrontation with reality does not spoil the comic atmosphere that the play has created for the audience to enjoy.

In the time intervening since his last appearance, Hammon has sought Jane and has found her. Dekker reintroduces him in soliloquy, and Hammon tells the audience that he has wooed the seamstress three times and has been refused all three times. In the traditional pain of unsuccessful courtship, he mourns:

... I am infortunate,
I stil loue one, yet no body loues me, ...

(III, iv, 6-7)

Hammon then confronts Jane a fourth time and pleads again for her love. Their conversation is not a series of witty exchanges as was the dialogue between Hammon and Rose or Warner and Sybil. Jane is sincere in her speech with the ridiculously lovesick figure,13 but love for her own husband keeps her from entertaining any thoughts of yielding to Hammon's plea.

On hearing that Jane's husband was among those sent to France, Hammon produces a letter which lists Rafe as one of those soldiers killed in military service there. Jane grieves realistically for her supposedly dead husband; except that the audience has already seen Rafe alive and back in Eyre's service, this scene would breed tragic feeling in the audience that would endanger the accomplishment of the play's purpose in which "nothing is purposed but mirth." Hammon, in determined pursuit, adds to her misery by continuing to plague her with protestations of his love. Actually, his proposals of marriage now become even more pressing than they have been previously; believing Rafe dead, Hammon thinks that there is absolutely no reason why Jane should not marry him. Jane repeatedly begs Hammon to cease his continual proposals, but he does not give in until he gets what he considers at least a faint glimmer of acceptance. Jane remarks:

                              Nay, for Gods loue peace,
My sorrowes by your presence more increase,
Not that you thus are present, but al griefe
Desires to be alone, therefore in briefe
Thus much I say, and saying bid adew,
If euer I wed man it shall be you.

(III, iv, 117-22)

When Jane does decide to marry Hammon, the prospective bridegroom sends a servant to Eyre's shop with one of Jane's shoes to be used as a measure in making her a new pair. The shoe falls, of course, into Rafe's hands, and he recognizes it as one of those he gave to his wife when he left her to go to France. The tradition mentioned in the discussion of their parting is, thus, picked up again as the parting token is used to identify and locate a lost lover. Here, as before, the use of the shoe to remind one of his beloved is amusing rather than touching. Somehow the picture of Rafe, clutching Jane's shoe and mourning over the fact that the wife he has lost is about to be married to someone else, is too outlandish to move the audience to pity. Thus Dekker once more uses a case of indecorum to turn a potentially sober situation into a comic scene.

Lacy, dressed as Hans the shoemaker, is able to see Rose on the pretense of fitting her with shoes. His disguise creates situations of comic irony, for his identity is known only to himself and to Rose; ignorance on the part of Rose's father, especially, makes possible some highly amusing speeches.

Firke, the apprentice whose clowning has been observed previously to some extent, is responsible for the comic turn taken by events which, otherwise, may have led to a tragic conclusion. A spy has revealed that Lacy is still in England rather than in France; as a result of his uncle's fervent search for him, Lacy and Rose make plans to be married as soon as possible. Firke implies that their marriage is forthcoming in the company of Lacy's uncle, Lincolne, and the Lord Mayor, but he purposely sends the searchers to the wrong church so that the wedding interrupted by them is that of Hammon and Jane rather than that of Lacy and Rose.

Before Lincolne and the Lord Mayor appear at the church where Hammon and Jane are to be married, Eyre's apprentices, intent on helping Rafe regain his wife, arrive there. Hodge reveals Rafe's presence to Jane, and she leaves Hammon's side immediately and goes to embrace her husband. At this point Hammon tries to buy Jane from Rafe, but Rafe tells Hammon in strong terms that gold will not separate him from his wife. Hammon, thwarted again in his pursuit of a wife, vows never to marry and leaves the stage.

The Lord Mayor and Lincolne, bent on stopping the wedding of Lacy and Rose, enter next. Thinking they have found the two for whom they have been searching, they approach Rafe and Jane, both of whom are masked. With the identities of these two characters concealed, Dekker allows Lincolne and the Lord Mayor to make fools of themselves; themselves the object of comic irony, they ignorantly make speeches about the blindness of those they assume are underneath the masks. As the realization that they have been made to look ridiculous by Firke's trick settles onto the Lord Mayor and Lincolne, a messenger brings word that the king is that day dining with Simon Eyre; the defeated but persistent pair head for the newly appointed Lord Mayor's house to plead with their ruler to dissolve the marriage of Lacy and Rose, for the news of that couple's wedding has been brought by the same messenger who has spoken of the king's whereabouts.

The king, a just man, does not want to separate Lacy and Rose. After some joking and sporting with Simon Eyre, he turns to the two young lovers; and, to please Lincolne and the former Lord Mayor, he declares the couple divorced. If the play had ended at this point, the comic atmosphere that has prevailed throughout the drama would have been strikingly disrupted. The king, however, decrees that the two whom he has separated are now rejoined as husband and wife. Tragedy has been averted--to the dismay of those characters who did not look for such an outcome.

With the marriages thus satisfactorily established, the play can be brought to a close. The king enjoys a banquet at Simon Eyre's home, but his eyes are on the upcoming war with France:

Come Lordes, a while lets reuel it at home,
When all our sports, and banquetings are done,
Warres must right wrongs which Frenchmen haue begun.

(V, v, 189-91)

The play ends, then, with marriages and a banquet, two of the devices which, according to Northrop Frye, are traditional ways of closing a comedy.14 The subject of war mentioned in the last line of the play serves as a realistic touch, a reminder to the characters that their merrymaking is not all that there is to life.

In this review of the essential events and situations that comprise The Shoemakers' Holiday, the following elements have been seen to perpetrate comedy:


Unexpected substitution that violates the general nature of tradition keeps a potentially moving scene from being touching.


Closely related to indecorum, incongruity of speech, dress, manner, or action is comical to an audience who knows the true nature of the individual concerned and can see the discrepancy. Walter Kerr devotes an entire chapter of his book on dramatic theory to a discussion of elements that are funny because they violate the expected or natural pattern.15


Speeches which contain extreme amplification of sentiment tend to amuse the audience rather than to stir them emotionally.


Lack of self-knowledge or knowledge of surrounding situations--in those cases where such a lack breeds no harm--causes spectators to smile indulgently from their "if-only-you-knew" stance. Henri Bergson brings out this idea in his statement, "... a comic character is generally comic in proportion to his ignorance of himself."16 In tragedy this ignorance and the recognition that is its resolution17 add to the tragic nature of the hero involved because of the regrettable acts that frequently spring from such lack of knowledge. In comedy, however, the greatest injuries suffered seem to be those that are concerned with wounded vanity.18 Though this element is also common in tragedy--referred to then as hubris--there is a difference in its presentation in comedy. The comedy involves no malice, no irreversible misfortune, while the tragedy gives place to violence and incidents that bring irremediable harm--even death--to characters. This concept of the difference between the comic and tragic handling of pride is one possible amplification of Frye's statement, "Comedy is designed not to condemn evil, but to ridicule a lack of self-knowledge."19 Comic ignorance does not give rise to serious injury; it does permit ridicule, but not to the point of being malicious. Most recognition that occurs in connection with a demonstration of ignorance in comedy brings a sheepish admission of a foolish position, not an awareness of guilt for some heinous act.

Disguise, Mask, Pretense

These three agents make possible comic irony or the comedy whose existence springs from situations whose characters and conditions are not what they seem to be. These various means of role-playing are inseparably related to some of the abstract elements already listed. Pretense, for example, tends to spawn some form of incongruity. Disguise always plays upon someone's ignorance; the result is generally irony, dramatic or verbal, amusing in a comic framework but often soberly pointed in tragedy.

Comic characters

The use of good-natured characters who are always finding subjects for sport--either among their peers or in another social group--keeps an audience in a comic mood. Dekker's play presents several successful comic characters, chief among whom is Simon Eyre.

In addition to these elements Thomas Dekker changes the course of potentially grave situations and shapes them into circumstances suitable to comedy. Northrop Frye, who sees all drama in terms of an ultimate resolution (a cycle of struggle, death, and rebirth)20 would hail Dekker's work because it illustrates a principle important to Frye: "... comedy contains a potential tragedy within itself."21 There are three major examples of this approach to tragedy and reversal from it in The Shoemakers' Holiday:

(1) The first of these is the return of Rafe, wounded, from his war experience. As the previous discussion of his predicament has pointed out, Dekker uses Rafe to represent the wounded soldier of the era, a man frequently condemned to a life as a beggar. Rafe escapes that condemnation by assuming an air of acceptance regarding his lameness; rather than giving in to despair, he goes back to work as a shoemaker. Because he assumes mastery of the situation instead of allowing the situation to master him and dictate to him an existence of miserable self-pity, Rafe does not become a tragic figure. His potentially tragic circumstances work out happily under Dekker's hand; the result is that the members of the audience, through Rafe's lameness, are forced to stop in the midst of their hearty enjoyment long enough to remember that the darker aspect of reality is still a factor with which they must contend. Rafe's personal victory over the circumstances, however, makes the sobering moment fit acceptably within the comic framework. This incident is definitely the most notable of the serious elements involved in the play.

(2) Jane's sincere grief for her supposedly dead husband would give rise to a tragic turn of mind except for Dekker's arrangement of the scene. Although the news seems to be true to Jane, the audience know that Rafe is still alive; they have witnessed his return a few scenes earlier. Thus they can watch as Jane demonstrates her grief and yet not become involved, for they have knowledge of the situation that Jane does not have.

(3) The third situation with tones of potential tragedy is that of the love affair between Lacy and Rose. By means of Lacy's disguise and Firke's trickery, the couple manages to circumvent the family obstacles to their marriage. When the kinsmen find that they have been outwitted, they take the case to the king and ask him to dissolve the marriage. For a moment the audience is left open-mouthed; the play is a comedy, and the viewers expect it to end in marriage--yet before their eyes the sovereign humors the petitioners and decrees that the marriage between Lacy and Rose is dissolved. Dekker, however, does not leave his audience to wonder long; he has the king immediately declare the two lovers reunited in marriage. Whatever anxiety may have been developing is, thus, quickly dispelled; the potential tragedy of separation has been averted, and the comedy thus ends with the expected happy resolution.22


1Fredson Bowers, "Textual Introduction" to Thomas Dekker's The Shoemakers' Holiday, in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. by Fredson Bowers (4 vols. Cambridge: University Press, 1962), I, 9.

2Fredson Bowers, "Thomas Dekker, Robert Wilson, and The Shoemakers' Holiday," Modern Language Notes, LXIV (December, 1949), 517-19.

3Bowers, "Textual Introduction," p. 9.

4Thomas Dekker, foreword to his Shoemakers' Holiday, in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. by Fredson Bowers (4 vols. Cambridge: University Press, 1962), I, 19.

5Thomas Dekker, "The first Three-mans Song" and "The second Three-mans Song," in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. by Fredson Bowers (4 vols. Cambridge: University Press, (1962), I, 20-1.

6Bowers, "Textual Introduction," p. 9.

7Kenneth Muir, ed., Elizabethan Lyrics: A Critical Anthology (New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1958), pp. 31-2.

8Thomas Dekker, The Shoemakers' Holiday, in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. by Fredson Bowers, Vol. 1 (4 vols. Cambridge: University Press, 1962), I, i, 127-31. All further references to this work are from this edition and are cited in the text.

9Sir Philip Sidney, An Apologie for Poetrie, ed. by J. Churton Collins (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), p. 55.

10John Dennis, "A Large Account of the Taste in Poetry, and the Causes of the Degeneracy of It," in The Critical Works of John Dennis, ed. by Edward Niles Hooker (2 vols. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1967), I, 284.

11This same kind of play on dialect may be seen in Firke's conversation regarding the captain of the Dutch vessel (II, iii, 115-132).

12Thomas Dekker, If This Be Not a Good Play, the Devil Is In It (I, ii, 123-136) and The Pleasant Comedie of Old Fortunatus (I, i, 116-119).

13In the throes of lovers' melancholy, Hammon states his plea for Jane's love and makes the traditional declaration that his life depends on her acceptance of him:

Say, iudge, what is thy sentence, life, or death?
Mercie or crueltie lies in thy breath.

(III, iv, 56-7)

It is interesting to note the similarity of this plea to that addressed to Queen Elizabeth by Dekker regarding the importance of her favor toward the drama:

... your celestiall breath
Must send vs life, or sentence vs to death.

(Prologue, 17-8)

14Northrop Frye, "The Argument of Comedy," in Comedy: Plays, Theory, and Criticism, ed. by Marvin Felheim (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1962), p. 237.

15Walter Kerr, "The Comic Incongruity," in Tragedy and Comedy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), pp. 144-65.

16Henri Bergson, Laughter, trans. by Cloudesley Brereton and Fred Rothwell (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1924), p. 29.

17Aristotle, The Poetics, trans. by S. H. Batcher in The Great Critics: An Anthology of Literary Criticism, ed. by James Harry Smith and Edd Winfield Parks (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1967), p. 39.

18Susanne K. Langer expresses an idea similar to this one in the following excerpt from her work Feeling and Form:

In comedy, therefore, there is a general trivialization of the human battle. Its dangers are not real disasters, but embarrassment and loss of face.

Susanne K. Langer, "The Great Dramatic Forms: The Comic Rhythm," from Feeling and Form, in Comedy: Plays, Theory, and Criticism, ed. by Marvin Felheim (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1962), p. 252.

19Frye, p. 237.

20Ibid., p. 238.

21Ibid., p. 239.

22Robert Adger Law has written a study comparing Dekker's Lacy and Rose to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The critic omits one important parallel, however: the one that shows the two playwrights taking similar circumstances and working them out to suit their respective themes--Dekker comically and Shakespeare tragically.

Robert Adger Law, "The Shoemakers' Holiday and Romeo and Juliet," Studies in Philology, XXI (April, 1924), 356-61.

Source: Peggy Faye Shirley, "Dekker's Use of Serious Elements in Comedy: The Shoemakers' Holiday," in Serious and Tragic Elements in the Comedy of Thomas Dekker, Institut für Englishe Sprach und Literatur, 1975, pp. 12-36.