"The End(s) of Discord in The Shoemaker's Holiday"
- Critic: Martha Straznicky
- Source: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 36, No. 2, Spring 1996, pp. 357-72.
[(essay date 1996) In this essay, Straznicky asserts that The Shoemaker's Holiday "enacts an imaginary appropriation of civic authority and commercial wealth by a group of industrial laborers for whom both privileges were largely a matter of fantasy."]
The Shoemaker's Holiday (1599) is one of only three Elizabethan comedies named after specific festive occasions.1 While most critics have duly noted the importance of the festival to the play's structural and thematic design, their accounts employ a vague and moralistic vocabulary that is strangely out of keeping with the concrete, even materialistic language of the play itself. Michael Manheim, for example, sees the Guildhall feast as a "victory for the forces of humility and good will," and Arthur Kinney calls it "the still centre where passion and reason are themselves advanced, but made one and inseparable."2 Even critics such as Peter Mortenson and David Scott Kastan, who have usefully situated the play within the complex network of social, political, and economic conditions in which it was written and performed, view the play's holiday as a simple generic trick, a shrewd deployment of the ideology of comedy to resolve the discordant labor relations and commercial practices of Elizabethan London that lie behind the play. Kastan, for example, describes "a holiday from the historical world of social contradiction and consequence, as the tensions produced by the social realignments of the late sixteenth-century are wonderfully resolved in the communal, festive marketplace."3 Viewing the play's festivity as nothing more than the properly triumphant conclusion to economic discord, however, obscures the way in which the holiday itself is vitally engaged in the delineation and management of political and economic tensions. In other words, the end or resolution of discord in The Shoemaker's Holiday may embody rather than eliminate the conflicts that shape the play. By bringing to bear on Thomas Dekker's mythical feast the social function of corresponding Elizabethan festivals and thus reinvesting it with a historical register, the following discussion aims to show that The Shoemaker's Holiday purposely conserves a state of discord, and that the ends of such discord are in fact vital to the artisans' ideological, albeit imaginary, victory.
The Shoemaker's Holiday conflates two annual celebrations that would have been deeply familiar to Dekker's London audiences: Shrove Tuesday and Accession Day. Observed on the Tuesday immediately preceding Lent, Shrove Tuesday was a day of feasting and carousing during which legal strictures were loosened and normative social relations suspended. The privileges of festivity on Shrove Tuesday, however, were not equally distributed: the surviving records of Shrove Tuesday customs reveal that youth groups, specifically apprentices, were singularly empowered on this holiday.4 Enacting a mock jurisdiction over what appear to be traditional morals, London apprentices raided brothels and carted prostitutes through the streets, stormed and vandalized theaters, carried out skimmingtons, and tortured performing animals. In Fran鏾is Laroque's view, the holiday's discriminatory customs seem to have a "penitential, sacrificial character," and Keith Thomas has suggested that they performed a "safety-valve" function for a segment of the population that was actively oppressed throughout the early modern period.5 The inversion of normative age/youth relations on Shrove Tuesday, and the enforcement by the rioting youth of what are essentially conservative community values, render these festivities fundamentally double-edged: they cement a potentially rebellious group solidarity at the same time as they reinforce communally defined boundaries of acceptable personal behavior and professional occupation. Dekker's version of Shrove Tuesday, I will go on to argue, appropriates this very duality to inscribe moral boundaries between a variety of competing commercial practices, and, in so doing, to reinforce the collective identities of his audiences.
While explicit allusions to Shrove Tuesday dominate the concluding scene of The Shoemaker's Holiday, Dekker also expands the festival mood into a nationalist celebration of the monarch: the day is identified as "Saint Hugh's Holiday," and the king is assured that "Sim Eyre and my brethren the Gentlemen Shoemakers shall set your sweet Majesty's image cheek by jowl by Saint Hugh."6 L. D. Timms has recently suggested that for an Elizabethan audience this additional layer of festivity would have been understood as an allusion to Elizabeth's Accession Day (17 November), an annual celebration of monarch, state, and religion which, by 1599, was a familiar feature of the urban festive calendar.7 Although its precise origins are recorded only in anecdote and conjecture, Accession Day eventually became a crucial component of Elizabethan national political culture, commemorating as it did the divinely ordained conquest of Protestantism over papacy and replacing the coincident Catholic feast of Saint Hugh of Lincoln in the old ecclesiastical calendar.8 While the court glittered with spectacular tilts and entertainments, London's streets filled with bell-ringing, parishioners dutifully attended propagandist sermons, then celebrated with feasting, dance, torch-lit processions, and bonfires.9 Unlike Shrove Tuesday, Accession Day was primarily a political festival, imposed from the top down, and designed to evoke in English subjects a sense of unique national and religious identity. Like Shrove Tuesday, however, Accession Day had a prescribed target of derision at whose expense the celebrating took place: specifically the Pope and, more generally, Roman Catholicism. While a few Catholic polemicists were predictably outraged at what they perceived to be idolatrous festivities, the only sizable opposition to the Protestant supplanting came from radical reformers dismayed by the transformation of the monarch into a hagiographical icon.10 In general Accession Day was remarkably successful as a propagandist instrument, most likely because it fulfilled the psychic needs of a population whose festive traditions had been eroded by the Reformation.11 In The Shoemaker's Holiday, Accession Day is repeatedly called to mind in the many allusions to Saint Hugh (also, conveniently, the patron saint of shoemakers), in addition to the explicit celebration of the monarch in the final scene. The politics and cultural conflicts embodied in Accession Day, however, are not nearly as close to the surface of the play as are those of Shrove Tuesday, perhaps because the cultural meaning of Accession Day is secure enough for Dekker's audiences to serve as bedrock upon which the play's more contentious commercial relations could be framed.12
The adjustment Dekker makes in representing Shrove Tuesday and Accession Day festivities points up the inherent ambiguity that anthropologists and literary critics have ascribed to festival, and particularly to the forms of symbolic inversion that characteristically appear in Elizabethan comedy.13 As Peter Stallybrass rightly claims, "The meaning of such inversions is not, of course, a given. If they could, indeed, be read as impossibilia, farcical and implausible aberrations which reaffirm through antithesis the norm, they could equally be mobilized within a revolutionary iconography."14 Furthermore, as Stallybrass also goes on to show, the familiar dichotomy of dominant/oppressed, which frequently serves as the basis for analyzing the politics of festivity, fails to account for the appropriation of festivity by groups that are neither strictly ruling nor strictly ruled, and whose members do not define themselves in specifically political or class terms. Festivity, then, is neither the sanctioned and ultimately harmless rite proposed by the "safety-valve" theory, nor the populist, antiauthoritarian liberation suggested by Mikhail Bakhtin.15 Nor is it somewhere between the two, for a dualistic framework fails to capture the range of functions festivity performs within and among social groups. Festivity, however entrenched it may appear to be in a particular cultural tradition, is always available for appropriation to any group capable of mobilizing its resources.
One such mobilization is dramatized in The Shoemaker's Holiday. As in the contemporary historical analogues to Dekker's holiday, the shoemakers' celebration of group solidarity is concomitantly a triumph over persons and practices that have been positioned beyond what may be called the "festive boundary," a permeable yet clearly demarcated line separating that which is being celebrated from that which threatens the celebration. While critics usually commend the space within Dekker's festive boundary for being remarkably capacious and democratic, there are three clearly marked outsiders--Hammon, Oatley, and Lincoln--whose interests are not so much excluded as assimilated by the celebrants. The terms in which this boundary is framed, the precise criteria for inclusion and exclusion, and the seeming transformation of pre-festive discord into harmonious celebration reveal more about the play's stake in contemporary cultural conflicts than previous criticism has allowed.
The outsider whose role in the play's moral economy is both best and worst understood is Sir Hugh Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. Because he so obviously represents the conventional paternal opposition to youth and love, and because his opposition is fueled by clear-cut classist principles, Lincoln has received unduly brief critical notice. Most often, he is paired with Oatley as the embodiment of a class prejudice that Simon Eyre's new social order is committed to eliminating. For Joel H. Kaplan, Lincoln represents "false politeness" and "quiet hypocrisy"; for Manheim, he is "concerned only with 'outsides,' little with what a person really is," and for Kastan, he is an emblem of "aristocratic condescension."16 Useful as these views are in revealing the importance of class struggle in the play, their terms of reference fail to explain the reestablishment of social hierarchy under the aegis of the new Lord Mayor. Put differently, while Lincoln is demonized for insisting on class difference as a reasonable criterion of suitability for marriage, that very same class difference organizes social relations during the play's holiday: the king tries to stave off Lincoln's objections to an interclass marriage by pointing out that Rose is "well born"; Lacy is knighted to make the marriage more palatable to Oatley; and the king briefly withdraws into a private conversation not with the artisanal Lord Mayor but with the peer Lincoln. What the play's festival seems to celebrate, then, is not the eradication of class difference but the inclusion of socially and politically disadvantaged groups within a newly expanded notion of nobility. Progressive as this might be, it is not the conclusion one might anticipate in view of the different successes of Lincoln and the coalition of his opponents.
There may be a more compelling reason why Lincoln is so comfortably positioned beyond the festive boundary. Dekker's allusions to Accession Day in the play's final scene remind us that there is at least some anti-Catholic strain to the celebrations, and for his first audiences "Sir Hugh Lacy, Earl of Lincoln" would almost certainly have called to mind the Catholic saint whose feast day had been supplanted by the Protestant queen. In churchwardens' records for local observances of Accession Day, "Saint Hugh's Day" appears to have been used as a tag for the new holiday throughout the Elizabethan period, and Lincoln College, Oxford, a known Catholic stronghold early in Elizabeth's reign, reportedly inaugurated the Accession Day bell-ringing custom.17 Furthermore, as Julia Gasper argues, for an Elizabethan audience the war in the play would most likely have called to mind Essex's Irish campaign of the previous year, and perhaps even the earlier English expedition of 1591-92 against the Catholic League in France, both contemporary campaigns on behalf of the Protestant cause.18 Insofar, then, as the names "Hugh" and "Lincoln" may have been associated with Catholicism, the earl's defeat at play's end may be not so much a matter of class prejudice as a piece of subtle politico-religious propaganda reflecting a militant Protestantism, a position consistent with Dekker's other surviving work.19
The festive boundary in the play, however, is not as firm on this point as one might expect. First, Lincoln's association with Saint Hugh is not nearly as prominent a reminder of the old hagiographical material as are the constant allusions to the patron saint of shoemakers, something that is almost inevitable, given Dekker's choice of source.20 In writing about a shoemaker, Dekker is able to grace the material success of a master craftsman (and budding commercial entrepreneur) with the divine sanction ascribed to the old saint's martyrdom at the hands of religious persecutors. This appropriation of Catholic hagiography is most evident in the career of Lacy, whose resemblance to his uncle in both nomenclature and status is the second seeming permutation of the play's festive boundary.21 Well before Lacy has transformed himself into the Dutch immigrant worker Hans, we learn from his bemused uncle that the spendthrift's grand tour of the Continent culminated in apprenticeship to a shoemaker in Wittenberg, a geographical invention of Dekker's that once again points to a religio-political subtext in the play. As a shoemaker, Lacy/Hans is under the protection of Saint Hugh; however, as a Dutch shoemaker trained in the cradle of the Reformation, and as a shoemaker persecuted by a "papist" uncle, Lacy/Hans is a Protestant revision of Catholic hagiographical material. In terms of the play's religio-political slant, then, the festive boundary separating Lacy and the shoemakers from Lincoln appears permeable enough to allow certain of the powers of Catholic hagiography to be redefined as properly Protestant at the same time as Catholicism itself is successfully othered.22
Such a complex textual maneuver, however, would seem to be unwarranted by the social and economic status of Catholics in Dekker's London, who were by all accounts demographically insignificant and in no way a segregated group. Like other urban centers in Reformation Europe, London turned Protestant quickly, largely because governmental controls were both more visible and more powerful in the country's capital, and together with East Anglia it consequently posts the smallest Catholic populations in the country.23 And while committees were set up to investigate Catholic prisoners, and searches of Catholic properties were carried out on a regular basis throughout the 1580s and 1590s, Catholics were never deemed a serious political threat.24 In fact, the government appears to have found periodic imprisonment and economic controls to be sufficient means of restraining potential subversiveness. The economic controls in particular also impoverished many wealthy Catholics, so that by the late-Elizabethan period the economic status of even the most affluent among them was minor. In short, Catholics in late-Elizabethan London were an "insignificant minority."25
The cultural work of the anti-Catholic dimension of Dekker's festive boundary would thus seem to be more in the manner of simple reinforcement, perhaps even intensification, of the audience's firmly held views than an active negotiation of current social conflicts. It is also true, however, that the Catholic-Protestant conflict in the play is inextricable from the commercial and class conflicts with which the play is most importantly engaged. Lacy not only outwits his uncle, but he also and simultaneously outwits his future father-in-law, Oatley, whose economic position as a commercial capitalist also plants him, albeit less firmly, beyond Dekker's festive boundary. By placing Lincoln and Oatley in allied opposition to the play's dominant comic drive, Dekker appears to be cementing anti-Catholic and anti-commercial sentiments. It may be, then, that the uncontested anti-Catholicism of the play's festival mood provides a foundation for the more pressing controversy surrounding commercial activity.
That controversy is represented most unproblematically in the eventual defeat of Oatley's preferred son-in-law, Hammon--importantly, the only character who does not participate in the Shoemaker's Holiday. Hammon's dramatic function appears to be little more than to provide an ethical contrast to the play's romantic figures, but the terms in which he operates and in which he is described clearly mark him as a contrast also to the industrial laborers in the play. Although we first meet him hunting, a sport Dekker's audiences would see as aristocratic leisure,26 and although he initially plays Petrarchan lover to Rose, he soon settles into the commercial discourse with which he claims to be most comfortable and which is his dominant register throughout the play, wooing as he does the impoverished and distraught Jane in absurd monetary terms. Significantly, Hammon tries to lure Jane away from her shop, and when she objects that "I cannot live by keeping holiday" (xii.31), he promises to pay her for the day's lost income. This incident is in keeping with the play's many other characterizations of Hammon: although Oatley favors him because he is a "citizen by birth" and "fairly allied" (vi.61), it is clear that "fair revenues" are Hammon's major recommendation (xi.34). We also learn that he lives in Watling Street, an area of London noted by Stow for its concentration of wealthy drapers.27 And Hammon's spirits are buoyed throughout the play, even when faced with the successive losses of Rose and Jane, by confidence in his independent wealth. However ill-defined Hammon's finances may be, and however nebulous the source of his wealth, he is unequivocally marked as a rich citizen whose manners and habits are entirely alien to the world of manual labor.
On both counts, Hammon is fair prey for the shoemakers in the play, and it is fitting that he is the chief target of the Shrove Tuesday rioting at play's end. In Elizabethan London, Shrove Tuesday celebrations frequently bordered on the violent, as the numerous records of vandalism and physical assault on these occasions attest, and in a number of cases they actually broke out into full-scale riot.28 Dekker's apprentices are similarly aggressive: they are equipped "all with cudgels, or such weapons" as they prepare to reclaim Jane for Ralph, and Hodge's repeated attempts to restrain them hint at their underlying brutality (xviii.s.d.). Although the incident never breaks out into physical fighting, the continual presence of a group of armed and hyped-up young men does imbue the scene with the violence characteristic of contemporary Shrove Tuesday festivities. Rather than using their power against prostitutes or actors, however, these apprentices target Hammon, and they appear to do so strictly on account of his conspicuous wealth.29 In effect, this Shrove Tuesday attack punishes the nonlaboring commercial or mercantile capitalist and restores to his proper social position the injured and disadvantaged laborer. It is an exchange Hammon himself sportively notes: "Farewell, good fellows of the Gentle Trade, / Your morning's mirth my mourning day hath made." The "mirth" in this scene, then, is doing more than celebrating the solidarity of apprentices or reuniting a married couple; it more importantly firms up--and moralizes--a distinction between occupational practices that in fact constituted the chief industrial controvery in early modern London.30
One sign of an emerging capitalist economy in Dekker's time was the increasing importance of a new capitalist function: the commercial trader.31 The commercial trader, or entrepreneurial middleman, was not directly involved in the production of goods but took on the distributive aspect of manufacture, buying completed goods from the craftsmen and selling them at a profit to a variety of markets. The success of the commercial trader in disrupting the traditional operation of the trade guilds is clear in the number of economic disputes that arose between the distributive and productive sectors, a far larger proportion of conflicts than any that arose among members of individual guilds or among the guilds themselves.32 As George Unwin explains, all these disputes arose from the fact "that the craftsman was no longer in direct contact with the consumer, but was dependent on the capital of the middleman, whether as trader or as a direct employer, to find a market for his wares or his work."33 This new economic division between production and trade was also reflected in the urban geography, with merchants making up about 28% of occupations within the city walls, particularly in the wealthy central parishes, and only 8% in extramural suburbs.34 Similarly, the production of goods was concentrated in the eastern and southern neighborhoods of London, accounting in those districts for some 70% of occupations, with a much smaller proportion of manufacturing employment within the city center, roughly 53%.35 What these figures indicate is that while about three-fifths of London's occupations continued to be in the production of goods, the wealth--judging by the distribution of occupations in the city's more affluent neighborhoods--was restricted to a minority mercantile class.36 This unequal distribution of power and affluence predictably created occupational rivalries.
The triumph of the laboring shoemakers over Hammon in The Shoemaker's Holiday may well be an imaginary resolution of one such rivalry. A related case is the outwitting of Sir Roger Oatley, but in this instance Dekker's festival humor participates in political as well as economic controversy. Although Oatley's chief narrative role in the play is simply to obstruct his daughter's romance, Dekker's changes to his source material suggest that he had more in mind when he created Oatley than fulfilling a generic requirement. Oatley's counterpart in Deloney is an emperor, and the change in political status to Lord Mayor renders Oatley's otherwise conventional family troubles decidedly topical. The year before Dekker's play was staged, a former Lord Mayor of London, the fabulously wealthy Sir John Spencer, found himself in circumstances closely resembling those represented in the play.37 His daughter Elizabeth--who reputedly carried a �,000 dowry--was being sought in marriage by William, second Lord Compton, one of the most improvident courtiers of the time.38 Spencer was strongly opposed to the match, evidently on the grounds of Compton's desperate financial straits, but Compton's court connections proved literally to out-class the power of Spencer's money. Elizabeth was removed from her father's care following allegations that he had abused her, and in 1599 Spencer was briefly imprisoned in the Fleet.39 At the time Dekker was writing his play, the affair was yet unsettled, but the terms of the conflict were evidently timely enough for dramatic service.
What is at issue in both fictional and historical accounts is the social mobility that was occasioned, among other things, by the development of a capitalist economy. While successful commercial entrepreneurs such as Spencer, who had amassed an estimated fortune of between �0,000 and �0,000 in overseas and domestic trade,40 were able to buy their way into the upper orders, many members of the landed aristocracy were forced by their own lack of capital funds to sell off ancestral estates or borrow heavily from London's money merchants, thus conspicously sliding down the social ladder. A customary way of avoiding the embarrassment of debt was, in Lawrence Stone's terms, for the aristocracy periodically to arrange a "transfusion of mercantile blood--and mercantile money" through marriage.41 Compton's suit for Elizabeth appears to be a case in point, although Dekker's revision of the incident diplomatically under-plays the issue of Lacy's dire finances.
Oatley's opposition to his daughter's marriage to Lacy is, in historical context, perfectly legitimate: there is every reason to believe that Lacy is nothing more than a spendthrift fortune-hunting prodigal. What is interesting, however, is that Dekker chooses to align the audience's sympathy not with the soon-to-be-robbed citizen but rather with the improvident aristocrat. In order to understand this particular piece of poetic justice, it is important to recall that Spencer was quite likely the most unpopular Lord Mayor in living memory. Both during and after his tenure, Spencer was known for three things: spectacular wealth, stinginess, and harassment of apprentices. His term in office appears to have been a particularly difficult one, coinciding with a severe food shortage and the notorious food riots of 1595. It was in other respects also a time of popular unrest, and Spencer's attempts to curb the instigators, largely the city's apprentices, were met with outright defiance and an attempted assassination.42 Further to his discredit for the Rose audience, Spencer was one of the more vocal of antitheatrical civic authorities. He wrote at least two lengthy letters to Lord Burghley and the Privy Council insisting that the public performance of plays be suppressed.43 In both letters, his campaign against the city's youth resurfaces in his charge that dramatic representations of "profane fables, Lascivious matters, cozonning devizes, & other vnseemly & scurrilous behaviours" are the chief cause of the "disorders & lewd demeanors wch appeer of late in young people of all degrees," and that the venue itself provides a dangerous opportunity for their unsupervised congregation. More specifically, Spencer actually insists that "the late stirr & mutinous attempt of those fiew apprentices and other servants" was directly "infected" by the theaters.44 If Dekker's Rose audience did recognize Spencer in the habit of Oatley, then his defeat at the hands of the young Lacy and the apprentice shoemakers would have been a moment of communal triumph indeed.
And yet The Shoemaker's Holiday seems more to preserve than to dissolve the discordant political and economic conditions that pit apprentices against civic authorities and artisans against commercial capitalists: just as the defeat of Lincoln is the precondition for an imaginary assimilation of nobility and hagiography by the shoemakers, so the defeat of Oatley facilitates the transfer of his two key qualities, civic authority and wealth, to the shoemaker Simon Eyre. The making of Eyre's fortune has elicited a considerable amount of commentary. For most critics, Eyre's capitalist venture is one of the play's more cynical moments in which the otherwise sympathetic master craftsman resorts to deceit and debt in order to take advantage of a massive commercial opportunity.45 There is no way to exonerate Eyre from these charges. What this incident reveals, surprisingly, is that the making of wealth by duplicitous means, and by means of commercial rather than industrial capital, is not unequivocally a moral perversion. What the play appears to be doing is condemning some and condoning other commercial enterprises, and making the distinction in terms of generosity since the main difference between Spencer and Eyre is in the disposal of their wealth: "Let your fellow prentices want no cheer. Let wine be plentiful as beer, and beer as water. Hang these penny-pinching fathers, that cram wealth in innocent lamb-skins" (xx.8-11).46 There is also a large measure of reciprocity associated with Eyre's new wealth: his ability to capitalize on the Dutch cargo is made possible only by Hans's loan, and that loan is clearly figured as a reward for hiring the alien laborer.47 Similarly, Eyre's acquisition of wealth and rise in social status include--rather than exclude--his fellow craftsmen (as the perpetually ill-provided Hodge rejoices in "Let's feed and be fat with my lord's bounty" (xviii.205), and it is clear that the apprentices in particular view their new holiday and the privileges it grants them as direct legacies of Eyre's commercial success. In other words, while Eyre's mercantile venture bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Spencer's financial dealings, the new Lord Mayor's unhesitating extension of the benefits of his wealth to all shoemakers renders the manner of acquisition not only acceptable but worthy of celebration.48 The festival in The Shoemaker's Holiday thus enacts an imaginary appropriation of civic authority and commercial wealth by a group of industrial laborers for whom both privileges were largely a matter of fantasy.
That the play's concluding festival may have worked as fantasy for Dekker's first audiences leads to the question of how play text and performance context intersect. Because the historical record for the early modern period is notoriously thin on matters of theatrical reception, critics interested in the cultural work of drama rely primarily on textual and intertextual evidence alone. But the little information we do have about the make up of audiences at the various theaters and the stage success of particular plays can certainly provide us with some understanding of a play's engagement with contemporary controversies, particularly if the play is local and topical in orientation and if its generic structure prompts the dramatist to distinguish in some way between rewards and punishments. The Shoemaker's Holiday is a particularly rich case in point: its festive conclusion invites the audience to share in the shoemakers' triumphant appropriation of commercial and political power, thus not only reinforcing but also reinventing the interests of the apprentices and industrial capitalists among them.49 Interestingly, following its Rose debut, The Shoemaker's Holiday was also performed and apparently well received at court on New Year's Day, 1600. Even though the court spectators differed radically from those who saw the play in Southwark, the end of discord represented in the festival also served as a redefinition of contemporary economic controversies in favor of the audience. The queen and courtiers who applauded The Shoemaker's Holiday likely did so because its resolution affirmed their own anti-commercial sentiment at the same time as it renewed the viability of nobilitas.50 What this alignment of apparently dichotomous class sympathies reveals is the social and economic pressure being exerted by commercial capitalists in early modern London. Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday, both in text and performance context, may accordingly be understood as a mobilization of the power of traditional festivals to conduct controversy in such a way as to reinforce the shared economic and political interests of an industry and court that were slowly being displaced by new capitalist practices. The king's confident claim that "love ends all discord" is thus little more than a romantic mask for the economic and political terms in which the ends of discord in The Shoemaker's Holiday are in fact defined and achieved.
1The other two plays are William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (1600-02) and George Chapman's May-Day (1602-04).
2Michael Manheim, "The Construction of The Shoemakers' Holiday," SEL 10, 2 (Spring 1970): 315-23, 323; Arthur Kinney, "Thomas Dekker's Twelfth Night," UTQ 41, 1 (1971): 63-73, 64.
3David Scott Kastan, "Workshop and/as Playhouse: Comedy and Commerce in The Shoemaker's Holiday," SP 84, 3 (1987): 324-37, 333. See also Peter Mortenson, "The Economics of Joy in The Shoemakers' Holiday," SEL 16, 2 (Spring 1976): 241-52, 248.
4For a description of Shrove Tuesday customs in Elizabethan London, see Fran鏾is Laroque, Shakespeare's Festive World: Elizabethan Seasonal Entertainment and the Professional Stage, trans. Janet Lloyd (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991), pp. 96-103, and David Cressy, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989), pp. 18-9.
5Laroque, p. 101; Keith Thomas, "Age and Authority in Early Modern England," PBA 62 (1976): 205-48, 219.
6Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker's Holiday, ed. R. L. Smallwood and Stanley Wells (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1979), xviii.225 and xxi.6-8. All subsequent references to Dekker are to this Revels edition.
7L. D. Timms, "Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday and Elizabeth's Accession Day," N&Q n.s. 32, 1 (1985): 58.
8Cressy gives an account of the alternative explanations for the origin of Accession Day on pp. 51-3; see also Roy Strong, "The Popular Celebration of the Accession Day of Queen Elizabeth I," JWCI 21, 1-2 (1958): 86-103, 87-8.
9Strong, pp. 91-100.
10Strong, p. 100.
11Cressy, p. 50; Strong, p. 91.
12The conflation in the play of holidays celebrating the power of both state and local community would seem to suggest that at least some festive forms of plebeian culture in early modern England were not structured, as Michael Bristol has argued, in opposition to the "dominant and privileged elites" (Carnival and Theater: Plebeian Culture and the Structure of Authority in Renaissance England [New York: Routledge, 1985], p. 72). Rather, The Shoemaker's Holiday reveals a unification of political interests between apparently dichotomous social groups when a newly empowered sector--the commercial elite--begins to threaten traditional communal life. For Bristol's views on the agonistic nature of plebeian festivals, see pp. 72-88 and 197-213.
13For studies of symbolic inversion in The Shoemaker's Holiday see Kinney and Eril Barnett Hughes, "The Tradition of the Fool in Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday," Arkansas Philological Association Publications 8, 2 (1982): 6-10.
14Peter Stallybrass, "The World Turned Upside Down: Inversion, Gender and the State," in The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, ed. Valerie Wayne (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), pp. 201-20, 204.
15The safety-valve theory of inversion, in which temporary inversion of norms is permitted by a society's dominant group in order to release social tensions, was proposed by Max Gluckman, Custom and Conflict in Africa (Oxford: Blackwell, 1966) in contrast, Mikhail Bakhtin's Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1968), argues that symbolic inversion is essentially a transgressive unsettling of norms and regulations. A general overview of theories of festivity may be found in Bristol, pp. 26-39.
16Joel H. Kaplan, "Virtue's Holiday: Thomas Dekker and Simon Eyre," RenD n.s. 2 (1969): 103-22, 110; Manheim, p. 317; Kastan, p. 332.
17A particularly good example of the conflation of the two feasts is an entry for bell-ringing at Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire, where expenses are recorded in 1575 for "bred, drinck, and cheese for Ringing on St. Hewes daye in reioysing of the queenes prosperous Ragne" (quoted by Strong, p. 89; for other examples, see Strong, pp. 89-91). Strong also relates this anecdote: "Annually on the 17 November the college inmates enjoyed a 'gaudy day' in honour of their patron St. Hugh. It so happened about the year 1570 that some of the revellers went to the church of All Hallows to ring the bells for exercise. This resulted in the descent of the mayor, who charged them with popery for ringing a dirge for Queen Mary, to which one had the wit to reply that on the contrary it was for joy at the present Queen's accession. At this the mayor departed and ordered as many of the city's bells as possible to be rung in the Queen's honour" (p. 88).
18Julia Gasper, The Dragon and the Dove: The Plays of Thomas Dekker (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), p. 16. In this context, it may be fitting that Lincoln's commitment to the war effort is little more than a smoke screen for his desire to protect the Lacy family name from contamination by the citizen class.
19Gasper, pp. 16-43.
20Dekker's principal source is Thomas Deloney's The Gentle Craft, particularly the second and third stories of part 1. For a discussion of the relationship between the two works, see Smallwood and Wells, pp. 17-26.
21Lacy's fortunes are, of course, modeled in large part on the legend of St. Hugh found in the first four chapters of The Gentle Craft. See Francis Oscar Mann, ed., The Works of Thomas Deloney (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912), pp. 73-89.
22Significantly, much of the late 1590s repertoire of the Henslowe companies, for which Dekker wrote The Shoemaker's Holiday, reveals the political influence of Lord Howard of Effingham, the Lord Admiral, in its expressly Protestant values. See Andrew Gurr, Playgoing in Shakespeare's London (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987), p. 148.
23William Raleigh Trimble, The Catholic Laity in Elizabethan England 1559-1603 (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1964), p. 214; Edward Norman, Roman Catholicism in England from the Elizabethan Accession to the Second Vatican Council (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), p. 32. At the same time, however, the wealthiest Catholics were also to be found in these areas. See Trimble, p. 180.
24Trimble, p. 150.
25Quoted in Jeremy Boulton, Neighbourhood and Society: A London Suburb in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987), p. 284.
26Keith Thomas, "Work and Leisure in Pre-Industrial Society," Past and Present 29 (1964): 50-66, 57.
27Smallwood and Wells, xiv.23-4 n.
28Laroque, p. 101.
29Julia Gasper usefully suggests that the name Hammon could be meant to recall "Mammon," although she interprets the character's commercialism in religious rather than economic terms. See pp. 32-5.
30The less than innocent "mirth" of this scene may also caution us not to take at face value Dekker's claim in the dedicatory epistle that "nothing is purposed but mirth" (Epistle, line 20).
31George Unwin, Industrial Organization in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1904), p. 73.
32Unwin, Industrial Organization, p. 122; George Unwin, The Gilds and Companies of London (1908; rprt. London: Frank Cass, 1963), p. 251.
33Unwin, Gilds and Companies, p. 251.
34A. L. Beier, "Engine of Manufacture: The Trades of London," in London, 1500-1700: The Making of the Metropolis, ed. A. L. Beier and Roger Finlay (London: Longman, 1986), pp. 141-67, 153.
36For a graphic representation of this distribution, see Figure 3, "London commerce and industry described by Stow," in M. J. Power, "John Stow and His London," Journal of Historical Geography 11, 1 (1985): 1-20, 9.
37This connection was first suggested by David Novarr, "Dekker's Gentle Craft and the Lord Mayor of London," MP 57, 4 (1960): 233-9.
38Lawrence Stone, "The Peer and the Alderman's Daughter," History Today 11, 1 (1961): 48-55, 51.
39Stone, p. 51; DNB, s.v. "Spencer, John."
41Stone, p. 48.
42For a socio-historical analysis of these events, see Ian Archer, The Pursuit of Stability: Social Relations in Elizabethan London (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991), pp. 1-9.
43Both letters are printed in E. K. Chambers and W. W. Greg, eds., "Dramatic Records of the City of London: The Remembrancia," in The Malone Society's Collections, Part I (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1907), pp. 74-8.
44Chambers and Greg, p. 77.
45See for example Kaplan, p. 104; Kinney, p. 68; and Mortenson, p. 247.
46Bristol discusses a related example of the way that ideals of traditional hospitality served to unite civic and plebeian interests in the policies developed around the celebration of Lent (pp. 80-5).
47This is one of the play's most obvious bits of fictionalizing. Dutch immigrant laborers were in historical fact the target of allegations and attacks by Elizabethan tradesmen, although their numbers in no way rendered them a serious threat to the English labor force (Unwin, Gilds and Companies, pp. 246-51; see also Kaplan who discusses the matter of immigrant laborers in his reading of the play, pp. 325-6). Julia Gasper has recently suggested that Dekker's fairly easy positioning of the Dutch immigrant within an English household indicates that the play is more pro-Protestant than anti-immigrant (pp. 18-20).
48Elizabethan ideals of civic office appear to inform this revision of the Lord Mayor's function. Ian Archer quotes Recorder Croke on the benefits of having the government of London run by its own freemen: it is "an incouragement to the one to governe well, a provocation to the other to obey well, the bond of love & societie knitting both together, banishing discord, the poison of all commen weales" (pp. 50-1). In reality, artisans and city elites were bound only by a rhetoric of reciprocal rights and obligations. On occasion, however, the outright violation of this nonverbal contract did incite popular unrest, as in the riots of 1595. Archer ascribes these riots specifically to "the personal failings of Mayor Spencer [who] was criticized for corruption in allowing the sale of offices, for failing to consult with his colleagues, for keeping too loose a rein on city administration, and for insatiable avarice" (p. 56). With respect to both generosity and reciprocity, Simon Eyre rightly supersedes Oatley/Spencer. The more general conflict between guild values and bourgeois values that is characteristic of the moral landscape of early industrial societies may also lie behind this fictional succession. On the moral culture of the guilds, see Antony Black, Guilds and Civil Society in European Political Thought from the Twelfth Century to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1984). I thank an anonymous SEL reader for this reference.
49The play's occupational and political sympathies appear to favor the interests of only one segment of the audience generally thought to have attended the Rose theater: "Courtiers, the 'clamorous fry' of law students, citizens, whores, porters and menservants all went to the Rose, Theatre and Curtain" (Gurr, p. 133). On the other hand, very few of these groups--with the possible exception of some citizens--would have objected strenuously to the subject matter and poetic justice of The Shoemaker's Holiday. As Gurr speculates, some playgoers were clearly excluded from the amphitheater repertoirs of the late 1590s, for the reopening of the hall playhouses in 1599 and 1600 was evidently intended to serve a new clientele of affluent merchants and professionals who would come to dominate this venue in the early seventeenth century. One has a difficult time imagining that The Shoemaker's Holiday would be well received by these audiences.
50By 1599 both monarch and courtiers were well aware of their own increasing dependence on London's commercial capitalists. According to Robert Ashton, John Spencer was "[p]erhaps the most prominent of all lenders to the courtly world of fashion of his day" (The City and the Court, 1603-1643 [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979], p. 40). On the financial relationship between the aristocracy and London's money merchants, see also Ashton's The Crown and the Money Market, 1603-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960).
Martha Straznicky, "The End(s) of Discord in The Shoemaker's Holiday," in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 36, No. 2, Spring 1996, pp. 357-72.