The Paradox of Service and Freedom
This book takes its inspiration from a magically paradoxical phrase in the Tudor Book of Common Prayer, “service is perfect freedom.” The book explores this concept in early modern English culture, with special attention to the various kinds of people we can label as servants, and to such people as they are represented in the plays of William Shakespeare. It carries out this exploration in the larger context of the complex and dynamic understandings of service in England as they evolved through the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Such relationships patently involved people who were deeply dependent on other, wealthier, more powerful people for their livelihoods, and whose orders they took. It is essential to realize at the outset, however, that the ideals and practices of service came at one point or another to inform the attitudes and lives of women and men at every level of society, so that even people at the highest economic and political levels sometimes felt, thought, and acted as servants. And all these people were explicitly called to an ideal of service by the central doctrines of the Christianity to which they subscribed.
KeywordsHenry VIII Prayer Book True Freedom Cash Wage Perfect Freedom
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