• John Michael Archer
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


Was Shakespeare a citizen? Yes, if we use this word in its everyday sense of “inhabitant of a city,” for he spent much of his life in London. But Shakespeare was not admitted to “the freedom” of the city, and thus he never became a “citizen of London” in the accepted legal and political sense of his time. He was both a civic outsider and an urban insider. The discourse and disposition of London citizens imbue his plays, although citizens proper are seldom represented directly on his stage, and when they are they usually appear anxious and inconsequential. The Citizen of my title is meant as an adjective, and its Shakespeare employs the conventional metonymy by which we designate a collection of texts and all that pertains to them by the author’s name.


Europe Income Expense Lost Stake 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Patricia Parker, Shakespeare from the Margins: Language, Culture, Context (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 1; Spitzer, “Development of a Method,” in Alban K. Forcione et al., eds., Representative Essays (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), pp. 433–434. Spitzer credits Hans Sperber with the concept as well.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Etienne Balibar, “Citizen Subject,” in Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor, and Jean-Luc Nancy, eds., Who Comes After the Subject? (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 38.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Etienne Balibar, “Subjection and Subjectivation,” in Joan Copjec, ed., Supposing the Subject (London: Verso, 1994), p. 13.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Aristotle, The Politics, trans. Carnes Lord (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 1275b 16–20, 1277b 14–46, 1278a 35–39.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Quentin Skinner, “The Republican Ideal of Political Liberty,” in Gisela Bock, Quentin Skinner and Maurizio Viroli, eds., Machiavelli and Republicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 303–304.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), p. 203.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Chantal Mouffe, “Democratic Citizenship and the Political Community,” in Mouffe, ed., Dimensions of Radical Democracy (London: Verso, 1992), pp. 226–227.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Etienne Balibar, We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship, trans. James Swenson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), p. 40; author’s emphasis.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    Antony Black, Guilds and Civil Society in European Political Thought from the Twelfth Century to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), p. xii. Black’s wide-ranging study spends little time in England, and considers political philosophy and guild history, not literature and culture.Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    Susan Reynolds, An Introduction to the History of English Medieval Towns (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), p. 71.Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    Ian W. Archer, The Pursuit of Stability: Social Relations in Elizabethan London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 75.Google Scholar
  12. 24.
    Steve Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 24–27; Archer, Pursuit, p. 100; Reynolds, Medieval Towns, pp. 123–125, 165–172.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds, p. 53; the number, as opposed to the percentage, of freemen actually rose from about 14,800 to about 28,700, according to Rappaport.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds, pp. 42–45; Archer, Pursuit, pp. 131–133. See also Andrew Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities in Sixteenth-Century London (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), pp. 262–295.Google Scholar
  15. 29.
    The complete text is in: Arthur Freeman, “Marlowe, Kyd, and the Dutch Church Libel,” English Literary Renaissance 3 (1973), 50–51.Google Scholar
  16. 31.
    John Roche Dasent, ed., Acts of the Privy Council of England (London: Mackie & Co., 1902), n.s. Vol. 26, pp.16–21; Paul L. Hughes and James F. Larkin, eds., Tudor Royal Proclamations (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969), Vol. 3, pp. 221–222.Google Scholar
  17. 33.
    Montrose, The Purpose of Playing: Shakespeare and the Cultural Politics of the Elizabethan Theatre (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), pp. 198–199.Google Scholar
  18. 34.
    This is my conjecture. On apprenticeship and marriage, see Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds, p. 236. For the school, see Park Honan, Shakespeare: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 43–44. On John and William Shakespeare and the Stratford leather-trades, see Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life, revised edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 16–17, 73–74.Google Scholar
  19. 38.
    Schoenbaum, Compact Life, p. 27. Gilbert Shakespeare is described as a haberdasher of St. Bride’s parish, London, in a document that records his standing bail for a Stratford clock-maker. Scholars have not found his name in the Haberdasher’s rolls, however (p. 331 note 6).Google Scholar
  20. 39.
    Gerald Eades Bentley, Shakespeare: A Biographical Handbook (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961), p. 42.Google Scholar
  21. 41.
    I have consulted the photographic reproduction of the indenture in Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (New York: Oxford University Press and the Scolar Press, 1975), p. 221.Google Scholar
  22. 44.
    E. A. J. Honigman, “Shakespeare and London’s Immigrant Community Circa 1600,” in J. P. Vander Motten, ed., Elizabethan and Modern Studies: Presented to Professor William Schrickx (Gent: Seminaire voor Engelse en Amerikaanse Literatur, 1985), p. 148; Honan, A Life, pp. 322–324. Shakespeare’s involvement with the Mountjoys is evidenced by his testimony in a legal case of 1612 about his role as an intermediary in their daughter’s marriage negotiations (the facts are well known: see Schoenbaum, Compact Life, pp. 260–264). Honigman (pp. 149–150) and Honan (pp. 327–328) link the Mountjoy case to the treatment of marriage in Measure for Measure and All’s Well that Ends Well, both written around 1604, when the marriage took place. I might add that Shakespeare resembled Paroles much more than Duke Vincentio. But situational parallels are of less interest in my study than the way language encodes citizen and alien encounters, and so I’ve eschewed reading these plays as biographical allegory here or in chapter 1.Google Scholar
  23. 45.
    Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 197.Google Scholar
  24. 49.
    Leah S. Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and its Discontents (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 116–117.Google Scholar
  25. 50.
    Jean E. Howard, “Shakespeare and Genre,” in David Scott Kastan, ed., A Companion to Shakespeare (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), p. 308.Google Scholar
  26. 51.
    Theodore B. Leinwand, “Shakespeare and the Middling Sort,” Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993), 284.Google Scholar
  27. 55.
    Leinwand, “Middling Sort,” pp. 289, 285 note 3. Wrightson is cited on p. 285 note 4, and pp. 290–291. Keith Wrightson’s earlier work on this topic has been superseded by his article on “‘Sorts of People’ in Tudor and Stuart England,” in Jonathan Barry and Christopher Brooks, eds., The Middling Sort ofPeople: Culture, Society and Politics in England, 1550–1800 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994), pp. 28–51, and esp. pp. 41–42.Google Scholar
  28. 56.
    Wrightson—who takes the Mulcaster passage into account as a somewhat isolated example—allows that the middling status of citizens before 1640 was taken for granted, if rarely enunciated, for they lacked the political identity the term “middling sort” would later confer (p. 44). In the same volume, Jonathan Barry remarks upon the fragmentation among the better-off workers but traces their gradual consolidation in cities through various associations and their values, a development in which livery companies played a large part. Barry, “Bourgeois Collectivism? Urban Associations and the Middling Sort,” in Barry and Brooks, pp. 84–112.Google Scholar
  29. 57.
    Marx and Engels, The CommunistManifesto (London: Verso, 1998), p. 35 and Engel’s note.Google Scholar
  30. 58.
    In other words, it is a discourse. On discourse, class, and antagonism, see Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, trans. Winston Moore and Paul Cammack (London: Verso, 1985), pp. 105–127.Google Scholar
  31. 61.
    Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), p. 54.Google Scholar
  32. 62.
    Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1980), pp. 10, 47, 92–96, 101.Google Scholar
  33. 63.
    Brian Gibbons, Jacobean City Comedy: A Study of Satiric Plays by Jonson, Marston, and Middleton (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), p. 17. Gibbons’s emphasis.Google Scholar
  34. 64.
    Alexander Leggatt, Citizen Comedy in the Age of Shakespeare (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973), pp. 150, 151–152.Google Scholar
  35. 65.
    Harry Berger, “Text against Performance in Shakespeare: The Example of Macbeth,” in Stephen Greenblatt, ed., The Power of Forms in the English Renaissance (Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, 1982), p. 77; Leinwand, The City Staged: Jacobean City Comedy, 1603–1613 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986), p. 13.Google Scholar
  36. 66.
    Steven Mullaney, The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Leah Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare, pp. 36–37 and chapter 4.Google Scholar
  37. 67.
    Douglas Bruster, Drama and the Market in the Age of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 30, 35–36. Bruster’s emphasis.Google Scholar
  38. 68.
    Parker, Margins, pp. 2–3; Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach,” in The Marx–Engels Reader, 2nd edn., ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: Norton, 1978), pp. 143–145.Google Scholar
  39. 69.
    Jean E. Howard treats citizens and aliens together in “Mastering Difference in The Dutch Courtesan,” Shakespeare Studies 24 (1996), 105–117, and in “Women, Foreigners, and the Regulation of Urban Space in Westward Ho,” in Orlin, ed., Material London, pp. 150–167. On aliens in the period’s drama, see the standard work by A. J. Hoenselaars, Images of Englishmen and Foreigners in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1992). Citizen and merchant types also appear in this study.Google Scholar
  40. 70.
    For these lexical matters, see the OED and Onions, Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Michael Archer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Michael Archer

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations