Advertisement

Comedy: Civil Sayings

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

Abstract

Comedies by Shakespeare are usually linked to London, if at all, under the categories of “city comedy” or “citizen comedy,” and more often than not they fail to meet the expectations which attend these terms. Measure for Measure has emerged as the chief example of a city comedy manqué. According to Jean E. Howard, as we have noted, Shakespeare shares the citizen dramatists’ concern with the monitoring and punishment of wayward desire in an urban setting. But he also differs from them, as we see in this problem play, “an urban representation” in which the middling sort and its institutions are elided.1 It is setting and “representation” that determine the extent to which a given comedy fits the citizen mold. Measure for Measure is set at least in a Vienna reminiscent of London. Alexander Leggatt calls The Merry Wives of Windsor “Shakespeare’s only citizen comedy” because its theme of marriage and cuckoldry melds with the town of Windsor and its lively burghers.2 Perhaps The Comedy of Errors and The Merchant of Venice should be included in the list of plays whose concern with marital matters, civil society, and punishment in an urban setting mark them as something like city comedy.3

Keywords

Sovereign Power Citizen Context Public Theater Privy Council Royal Court 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 3.
    See Gail Kern Paster’s chapter on what she calls “Shakespeare’s City Comedies,” The Idea of the City in the Age of Shakespeare (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985), pp. 178–219.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, ed. J. W. Lever (London: Arden Shakespeare-Methuen, 1965), 3.2.1–4.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See Measure for Measure, ed. Lever, note to 3.2.3–4 and Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, ed. Mark Eccles (New York: New Variorum Shakespeare-Modern Language Association, 1980), note to line 1493.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well, ed. G. K. Hunter (London: Arden Shakespeare-Routledge, 1989), 2.2.16.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, ed. R. A. Foakes (London: Arden Shakespeare-Methuen, 1963), 1.1.8.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Ephesians 2: 12–15, 19–21. The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969). I have tacitly removed italics and abbreviations. On this passage and the play, see Barbara Freedman, “Egeon’s Debt: Self Division and Self-Redemption in The Comedy ofErrors,” ELR 10 (1980), 381–382.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Patricia Parker, “Anagogic Metaphor: Breaking Down the Walls of Partition,” in Eleanor Cook et al., eds. Centre and Labyrinth (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983), pp. 38–58, and Shakespeare from the Margins: Language, Culture, Context (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), pp. 56–59.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    “Nativity,” OED 5.a; William West, Symbolaeography, which may be Termed the Art, Description, or Image of Instruments (London: Jane Yetsweirt, 1597), I, section 46.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost, ed. H. R. Woudhuysen (Walton-on-Thames: Arden Shakespeare-Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1998), 5.1.13–5.1.14, 5.1.16–5.1.25.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Keir Elam, Shakespeare’s Universe of Discourse: Language-Games in the Comedies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 262–263.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    John Hart, An Orthographie (London: William Seres, 1569); William Bullokar, Bullokars Booke at large, for the Amendment of Orthographie for English Speech (London: Henrie Denham, 1580); Richard Mulcaster, The First Part of the Elementarie ( London: Thomas Vautroullier, 1582; facsimile edn., Menston: Scolar Press, 1970); Peter Bales, The Writing Schoolemaster (London: Thomas Orwin, 1590). For a survey, see Jonathan Goldberg, Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), pp. 190–207.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, trans. Wade Baskin (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966), p. 31.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    Frangois Rabelais, The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans. J. M. Cohen (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955), p. 70.Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    John Drakakis, “Afterword,” in John J. Joughin ed., Shakespeare and National Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), pp. 229–230.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread ofNationalism, revised edn. (London: Verso, 1991), p. 44.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    Carla Mazzio, “The Melancholy of Print: Love’s Labour’s Lost,” in Mazzio and Douglas Trevor, eds., Historicism, Psychoanalysis, and Early Modern Culture (New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 203.Google Scholar
  17. 27.
    Francis Yates, A Study of Love’s Labour’s Lost ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936), pp. 60–61. Many of her specific conclusions linking characters to historical personages are less helpful.Google Scholar
  18. 29.
    James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), p. 185.Google Scholar
  19. 34.
    On Goldsmith’s Row in the 1590s, see Paul Griffiths, “Politics Made Visible: Order, Residence and Uniformity in Cheapside, 1600–45,” in Griffiths and Mark S. R. Jenner, eds., Londinopolis: Essays in the Cultural and Social History of Early Modern London (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), pp. 176–177.Google Scholar
  20. 36.
    John Michael Archer, Old Worlds: Egypt, Southwest Asia, India, and Russia in Early Modern English Writing (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), pp. 124–130.Google Scholar
  21. 37.
    John Michael Archer, “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” in Richard Dutton and Jean E. Howard, eds., A Companion to Shakespeare’s Works, Vol. 3: The Comedies (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), pp. 320–337.Google Scholar
  22. 39.
    Marston, The Dutch Courtesan, 3.3.27–3.3.29, in Russell A. Fraser and Norman C. Rabkin, eds., Drama of the English Renaissance, Vol. 2: The Stuart Period (New York: Macmillan, 1976).Google Scholar
  23. 41.
    Meredith Skura, Shakespeare the Actor and the Purposes of Playgoing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 88–95, 89 note 9.Google Scholar
  24. 42.
    William Carroll, The Great Feast of Language in Love’s Labour’s Lost (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 233.Google Scholar
  25. 45.
    Archer, Pursuit, pp. 82–92. On the parish power-structures in general, see Keith Wrightson, “The Politics of the Parish,” in Paul Griffiths, Adam Fox, and Steve Hindle, eds., The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996), pp. 10–46. On London parishes, see Michael Berlin, “Reordering Rituals: Ceremony and the Parish, 1520–1640,” in Griffiths and Jenner, eds., Londinopolis, pp. 47–60.Google Scholar
  26. 46.
    Joan R. Kent, The English Village Constable, 1580–1642: A Social and Administrative Study (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), p. 62.Google Scholar
  27. 47.
    Anthony Munday et al., Sir Thomas More, eds. Vittorio Gabrieli and Giorgio Melchiori (Manchester: The Revels Plays-Manchester University Press, 1990), 2.3.17–2.3.19.Google Scholar
  28. 48.
    The examples in Tilley suggest that the proverb mainly pertains to class and religious differences. But it is applied to Jenkins the Welshman in Northward Ho!, one of his examples (4.1.11–4.1.12). Tilley does not cite the More passage: Morris P. Tilley, A Dictionary of the Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1950), M162.Google Scholar
  29. 50.
    Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, ed. John Russell Brown (London: Arden Shakespeare-Routledge, 1988), 1.2.53. And on sovereign power in Belmont, see for instance 3.2.49–3.2.50, 5.1.94–5.1.97.Google Scholar
  30. 51.
    On the expulsion orders and the play, see Kim F. Hall, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Colonization and Miscegenation in The Merchant of Venice,” Renaissance Drama 23 (1992), 90–91.Google Scholar
  31. 53.
    Tretiak, “The Merchant of Venice and the ‘Alien’ Question,” RES 5 (1929), 402–409.Google Scholar
  32. 55.
    Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, ed. Brown, note to 3.3.27. Thomas, The History of Italy, in M. Lindsay Kaplan, ed., The Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002), pp. 133, 137.Google Scholar
  33. 56.
    Aristotle’s compound definition of justice is of course more complex than this. The good citizen is at stake in his approach; distributive justice concerns “those who have a stake in the constitution,” and reciprocal justice draws its examples from exchanges among artisans: The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. David Ross (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 111, 117–122. The Aristotelian view may have been familiar to Shakespeare from Book 5 of Spenser’s Faerie Q,ueene, among other sources. The Egalitarian Giant with his balance, emblem of an unjust because disproportionate equality, stands behind Shylock and his scales: The Faerie Queene, ed. Thomas P. Roche (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978), 5.2.30–5.2.32. The Giant may embody fears of a leveling Anabaptism associated with London’s Dutch immigrants.Google Scholar
  34. 57.
    “Proclamation Ordering Peace Kept in London” and Coke, Reports, in The Merchant of Venice, ed. Kaplan, pp. 159–160, 161–162.Google Scholar
  35. 64.
    Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, ed. H. J. Oliver (London: Arden Shakespeare-Methuen, 1971), 1.1.32, 2.3.103–2.3.104. For Shallow as a Garter guest, see 2.3.53.Google Scholar
  36. 65.
    Rosemary Kegl, The Rhetoric of Concealment: Figuring Gender and Class in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), pp. 96–100.Google Scholar
  37. 66.
    A Most Pleasaunt and Excellent Conceited Comedie, of Syr Iohn Falstaffe, and the Merrie Wiues of Windsor, A3 recto. The Quarto is reproduced in facsimile in Giorgio Melchiori, ed., The Merry Wives of Windsor (Walton-on-Thames: Arden Shakespeare-Thomas Nelson and Sons, 2000). Further citations from this facsimile.Google Scholar
  38. 67.
    In the Quarto, it is true that Slender later says he is “as good as any is in Glostershire” (F1 recto). But in the scene where the false duel is explained, Shallow seems quite familiar with “Doctor Cayus and sir Hu” in Q, less so in F (2.1.191–2.1.192). Q’s Shallow and his fighting past is already familiar to Page (C2 recto), where in F, Shallow volunteers the information to counter Page’s praise of Caius’s dueling skill (2.1.211–2.1.218).Google Scholar
  39. 71.
    Peter Erickson, “The Order of the Garter, the Cult of Elizabeth, and Class-Gender Tension in The Merry Wives of Windsor,” in Jean E. Howard and Marion F. O’Connor, eds. Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology (New York: Methuen, 1987), pp. 116–130; Marcus, Unediting the Renaissance, pp. 69–81.Google Scholar
  40. 74.
    Shakespeare, The First Part of King Henry IV, ed. A. R. Humphreys (London: Arden Shakespeare-Routledge, 1988), 1.2.25–1.2.29; 2.2.81.Google Scholar
  41. 75.
    Shakespeare, The Second Part of King Henry IV, ed. A. R. Humphreys (London: Arden Shakespeare-Methuen, 1966), 5.4.7.Google Scholar
  42. 76.
    Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, ed. Oliver, note to 1.1.271.Google Scholar
  43. 77.
    C. J. Sisson, “Shakespeare’s Helena and Dr. William Harvey,” Essays and Studies (1960), 1–20; Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities, pp. 176, 206–207, 230.Google Scholar
  44. 78.
    Gertrude Annan, “John Caius,” in Elizabeth M. Nugent, ed., The Thought and Culture of the English Renaissance (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1969), pp. 289–290. Caius died in 1573.Google Scholar
  45. 80.
    In John Webster’s The White Devil (New York: Norton, 1996), Francisco disguises himself as a Moor: could this have affected the 1623 Folio?Google Scholar
  46. 84.
    Patricia Parker, Literary Fat Ladies: Rhetoric, Gender, Property (London: Methuen, 1987), pp. 20–21; Valerie Traub, Desire and Anxiety: Circulations of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 56–64.Google Scholar
  47. 87.
    M. J. Power, “East London Housing in the Seventeenth Century,” in Peter Clark and Paul Slack, eds., Crisis and Order in English Towns, 1500–1700: Essays in Urban History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), p. 241.Google Scholar
  48. 89.
    Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds, p. 54; Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities, pp. 283–285. The complaint is prominent in the Dutch Church Libel: Freeman, “Marlowe, Kyd,” p. 50.Google Scholar
  49. 90.
    Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds, p. 66. The number of aliens in London had probably decreased during the latter part of the sixteenth century relative to the entire population (p. 105).Google Scholar
  50. 91.
    Deanne Williams, “Will you go, Anhhers?’ The Merry Wives of Windsor, II. i. 209,” Notes and Queries (June 1999), 233–234.Google Scholar
  51. 93.
    Barbara Freedman, “Shakespearean Chronology, Ideological Complicity, and Floating Texts: Something is Rotten in Windsor,” Shakespeare Quarterly 45 (1994), 203–205; Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth,1598–1601, ed. M. A. Everett Green (1869; rpt. Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1967), pp. 5–6.Google Scholar
  52. 97.
    I am building on William Empson’s classic definition of pastoral in general: Some Versions of Pastoral (New York: New Directions, 1974), p. 22.Google Scholar
  53. 98.
    Richard Wilson, Will Power: Essays on Shakespearean Authority (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993), pp. 73–74.Google Scholar
  54. 99.
    Mario DiGangi, The Homoerotics of Early Modern Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 56–57.Google Scholar
  55. 100.
    Shakespeare, As You Like It, ed. Agnes Latham (London: Arden Shakespeare-Methuen, 1975), 1.3.122–1.3.124.Google Scholar
  56. 101.
    Shakespeare, As You Like It, ed. Richard Knowles (New York: New Variorum Shakespeare-Modern Language Association, 1977), note to line 1326.Google Scholar
  57. 103.
    Thomas Nashe, Pierce Penilesse his Supplication to the Divell, in R. B. McKerrow, ed., The Works of Thomas Nashe, 2nd edn., revised by F. P. Wilson (Oxford: Blackwell, 1958), 1.223.Google Scholar
  58. 104.
    On the type of the citizen’s wife, see Ian W. Archer, “Material Londoners?”, in Lena Cowen Orlin, Material London, ca. 1600 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), p. 186. In addition to his examples, see Anonymous, “A Tale of a Citizen and his Wife,” in C. A. Patrides, ed., The Complete English Poems of John Donne (London: Dent-Everyman’s Library, 1985), and the characters of “A Very Woman,” “A Purveyor of Tobacco,” “A Handsome Hostess,” and “A Gull Citizen” (the last two by John Earle) in Thomas Overbury, A Wife now the Widow of Sir T. Overburye (1616), ed. James E. Savage (Gainesville: Scholars Facsimiles, 1968).Google Scholar
  59. A. Stuart Daly argues that both the city-woman and city-deer references are mere satirical commonplaces and do not alter the play’s overwhelmingly rural character: “We can only conclude that city life has no relevance to the drama.” In providing a broad context for these allusions within the play and Shakespearean comedy at large in this chapter, I hope to show the opposite. See Daly, “The Dispraise of the Country in As You Like It,” Shakespeare Quarterly 36 (1985), 305.Google Scholar
  60. 107.
    Archer, Pursuit, p. 214. On Henslowe and other citizen brothelowners, see John L. McMullan, The Canting Crew: London’s Criminal Underworld, 1550–1700 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1984), p. 193. On Henslowe’s rise, see Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage, 1574–1642, 3rd edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 58.Google Scholar
  61. 112.
    Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, ed. A. R. Humphreys (London: Arden Shakespeare-Methuen, 1981), 3.5.19; 3.3.73–3.3.74.Google Scholar
  62. 116.
    Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ed. Harold F. Brooks (London: Arden Shakespeare-Methuen, 1979), 5.1.72.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Michael Archer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Michael Archer

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations