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520 Class 10

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Primary Reading: Dekker, The Shoemaker’s Holiday
Secondary Reading: Browse the introduction to Smallwood and Wells’s edition.
Other References: The Shoemaker’s Holiday has been well studied, as a quick search of the MLA International Bibliography will show. Of particular interest to us are the pair of essays by historian Paul S. Seaver and literary/textual critic David Bevington in The Theatrical City, and Harris’s essay on Ludgate Time. Whitney suggests that The Shoemaker’s Holiday satirizes Sir John Spencer (Lord Mayor in 1594-95) and gives a summary of the tension between city and theatres immediately prior to 1599. Straznicky argues that the play purposely conserves a state of discord (358). Christensen and Arab (in different ways) offer readings of the gender politics of the play. Note! These references are for information only. I may draw upon them in my discussion, but do not expect you to read them.
Discussion Questions:
  1. Money is always changing hands in The Shoemaker’s Holiday. Rose pays Sybil to find information about Lacy (II.i); Ralph gives Jane a gift before going to war; and Firk withholds information until he receives coins in return, saying but give me your angel; your angel shall tell you (IV.iv) as though money literally talks. Indeed, it appears that everyone and everything in London can be bought — all except Jane, who only gives (IV.i), much to Hammon’s repeated astonishment (V.ii). What, then, is the picture one gets of the economy of London from The Shoemaker’s Holiday, and does it accord with other portrayals we have encountered? (KK)
  2. Whether legitimately or through subterfuge, characters in The Shoemaker’s Holiday frequently switch classes and receive different treatment because of it. Lacy is able to camouflage his rank completely as he dresses down to a Dutchman and fools everyone, with the other shoemakers deciding to leave the gross work to Hans (III.i); Eyre, on the other hand, becomes Lord Mayor but still speaks mostly in prose, belying his former position — something that did not seem as out of place when he was briefly disguised as an Alderman (III.i). Do you think that the portrayal of upward mobility in the play takes itself seriously? Or, in other words, is there evidence in The Shoemaker’s Holiday to undercut the idea that anyone is able to become Lord Mayor of London? Is the play humorous entirely because of its implausibility, or is there a set of genuine beliefs underlying its action? (KK)
  3. This play opens with a dialogue between the Earl of Lincoln, a gentleman, and Mayor Oatley, a citizen of London. The two agree that the blossoming romance between their respective children must be stopped. In the formal hierarchy of the period, gentlemen are technically superior to citizens. Twenty-first century readers might expect the citizen to champion his daughter’s relationship with the young noble in an effort to elevate her — and his own — social standing. However, this is not the case in the play. In Scene 1, what attitudes does Mayor Oatley express regarding the gentry? How are the tensions between him and Lord Lincoln treated throughout the play and especially in its conclusion? (BB)
  4. Notwithstanding his assertion in The Epistle that The Shoemaker’s Holiday has no purpose but mirth, does Dekker’s Lacy plot, when juxtaposed with the Ralph and Jane Damport plot, critique class inequality? The apprentice Ralph Damport is separated from his new bride to do his military service in France. Because of his obedient service he is maimed, and almost permanently separated from Jane through remarriage. The noble youth, Lacy, deserts and is ultimately pardoned by the king. Given his status, if Ralph had evaded service, would the King have been as gracious to him as he is to Lacy? Wouldn’t Ralph too, like Lacy, have deserted not [for] a base want of true valour’s fire / ...but love’s desire (21.56-57)? If there is a critique of class inequality in this play, are there other examples? Alternately, how does Dekker affirm the value of hierarchical class distinctions? Does Dekker both affirm and critique class hierarchy? (BB)


Last modification: 2016-06-04 15:39:30 -0700 (Sat, 04 Jun 2016) (jtakeda)
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MLA citation:

Jenstad, Janelle, Kane Klemic, and Benjamin Barber. “520 Class 10.” The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Web. 20 January 2018. <>.

Chicago citation:

Jenstad, Janelle, Kane Klemic, and Benjamin Barber. n.d. “520 Class 10.” The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed January 20, 2018.

APA citation:

Jenstad J., K. Klemic, & B. Barber. (n.d.). 520 Class 10. In J. Jenstad (Ed.), The Map of Early Modern London. Retrieved January 20, 2018, from

TEI citation:

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