History: Civil Butchery

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

Abstract

According to Richard Helgerson, as we have seen, “Shakespeare’s history plays are concerned above all with the consolidation and maintenance of royal power.” Citizens did not interest Shakespeare much, except as the contrasting ground against which his monarchs and aristocrats defined themselves. We must turn, as Helgerson does in an unrivaled survey, to the Henslowe history plays to distinguish the victims of sovereignty among the urban middling sort. On the whole, Helgerson is right insofar as we stick to what he terms “image” or “representation” in the theater.1 But if we return to the language of Shakespeare’s history plays, we uncover an underworld of citizen speech that brings the plays closer to many in their original London audiences than the hieratic stage action at first suggests. Furthermore, citizens and citizen-types do appear in the histories, however circumscribed or caricatured their roles seem in comparison with the suffering creations of the Henslowe authors. There is a shift between the first and second tetralogies from London settings to London language, although even in the “Henriad” Eastcheap remains a key location and reference-point.

Keywords

Foam Gallia Topo Defend Lost 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    See Ronald Knowles, “Introduction,” in Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, ed. Knowles (Walton-on-Thames: Arden Shakespeare-Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1999), pp. 116–120.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The Q text of part 2 is entitled The First part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of York and Lancaster (1594), and the Octavo text of part 3, its earliest published version, The true Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the death ofgood King Henrie the Sixth (1595). Q Richard I7I was printed in 1597, followed by Q2 in 1598 and later editions.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    On women as aliens in history plays, see Phyllis Rackin, “Foreign Country: The Place of Women in Shakespeare’s Historical World,” in Richard Burt and John Michael Archer, eds., Enclosure Acts: Sexuality, Property, and Culture in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), pp. 68–95. As Jean E. Howard and Rackin point out in a separate study, Eleanor unwittingly assumes an alien air herself before the Elizabethan audience if not her pre-Reformation enemies, since in late sixteenth-century England, Roman Catholic priests were linked with the Continent: Engendering a Nation: A Feminist Account of Shakespeare’s English Histories (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 76.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    Shakespeare, 2 Henry VI, ed. Andrew S. Cairncross (London: Arden Shakespeare-Methuen, 1957), 3.1.357 note; R. A. Griffiths, The Reign of Henry VI, 2nd edn. (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1998), pp. 617, 653–654 note.Google Scholar
  5. 19.
    Spurgeon, Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1935), pp. 227–228; Knowles, “Introduction” to 2 Henry VI, pp. 72, 99–100.Google Scholar
  6. 20.
    Under Queen Elizabeth, “Lenten butchers” were generally banned unless a license was granted to consumers who required meat for medical reasons. This helped support the fishery and so it was treated as a public as well as religious good. Butchers often ignored the law, however, and were fined by the Butchers’ Company. Such fines were common in the 1590s, and in 1607 the Company reiterated the prohibition on Lenten butchery in its formal ordinances: Arthur Pearce, The History of the ButchersCompany (London: Meat Traders’ Journal Company, 1929), pp. 81, 237.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part 3, ed. John D. Cox and Eric Rasmussen (London: Arden Shakespeare-Thompson Learning, 2001), 1.1.67, 1.1.70–1.1.71.Google Scholar
  8. 27.
    Hall, The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and Yorke, in Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part 3, ed. Andrew S. Cairncross (London: Arden Shakespeare-Routledge, 1989), p. 170.Google Scholar
  9. 28.
    Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part 1, ed. Edward Burns (London: Arden Shakespeare-Thomson Learning, 2000), 2.3.22, 2.3.60–2.3.71.Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    I am dependent upon Wolffe, pp. 39–41, and especially Griffiths, Henry VI, pp. 73–81, for the historical overview of these paragraphs.Google Scholar
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    Raphael Holinshed, Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Vol. 3 (London: J. Johnson, 1808; rpt. NewYork: AMS, 1965), p. 148.Google Scholar
  12. 33.
    Griffiths, Henry VI, pp. 74–75; “Gregory’s Chronicle,” in James Gairdner, ed., The Historical Collection of a Citizen of London in the Fifteenth Century (London: Camden Society, 1876), pp. 157–158.Google Scholar
  13. 34.
    The Brut chronicle, available in a sixteenth-century edition based on Caxton’s version, records that Winchester bore a “hevy herte” against the citizens without mentioning his support of aliens: The Brut, or The Chronicles of England, Vol. 2, ed. F. W. D. Brie (London: Early English Text Society, 1908), p. 432.Google Scholar
  14. 35.
    Shakespeare, Richard III, ed. Antony Hammond (Walton-onThames: Arden Shakespeare-Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1997), 3.1.1.Google Scholar
  15. 36.
    John Stow, A Survey of London, “Reprinted from the text of 1603,” ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1908), I.85.Google Scholar
  16. 37.
    Henry Wright, The First Part of the Disqvisition of Truth, Concerning Political Affairs (London: Nicholas Okes, 1616), p. 68.Google Scholar
  17. 39.
    Phyllis Rackin argues that Shakespeare’s histories often invite the contemporary audience to compare their situation with the political action on stage: Stages of History: Shakespeare’s English Chronicles (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), pp. 119–120; on Richard III, see pp. 95–96.Google Scholar
  18. 40.
    Shakespeare, King John, ed. E. A. J. Honigmann (London: Arden Shakespeare-Thomson Learning, 1998), 3.3.146–3.3.159.Google Scholar
  19. 41.
    Quotation altered from “Kings of our fear.” “King’d” is the reading in the Folio, the only early text (2.1.371 collation). The Arden edition also makes the Citizen into Huberd, following speech prefixes after line 325: it is possible the SP indicates that the same actor played two roles, although the conflation of Huberd with the wily Argierian is tempting.Google Scholar
  20. 48.
    Shakespeare, The Life and Death of King Richard the Second, ed. Matthew W. Black (Philadelphia: New Variorum Shakespeare-J. B. Lippincott, 1955), 1.3.266a—z, and Richard II, 1.3.271–1.3.274 note. The recent Third Series Arden edition also misses the citizen connotation of “freedom” and adds little to the tense crux discussed below: Richard II ed. Charles R. Forker (London: Arden Shakespeare-Thomson Learning, 2002), 1.3.271–1.3.274.Google Scholar
  21. 51.
    On apprenticeship, see Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos, Adolescence and Youth in Early Modern England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), chapters 4, 5, and 9 (“Rites of Passage”). Around 10% of the London population were apprentices in the mid-sixteenth century and the proportion was higher by the 1590s (p. 84); most citizens in the audience had passed through apprentice status.Google Scholar
  22. 54.
    John Dover Wilson, The Fortunes of Falstaff (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1943), pp. 25–27. And see Stow, I.216–217. Stow also recounts how Henry IV’s other sons John and Thomas engaged in a brawl while dining in Eastcheap.Google Scholar
  23. 56.
    No satisfactory explanation for the link to highwaymen appears to have been offered: Henry the Fourth Part I, ed. Samuel Burdett Hemingway (Philadelphia: New Variorum Shakespeare-J. B. Lippincott, 1936), 3.2.58, 3.2.59 note.Google Scholar
  24. 57.
    On the church and the Boar’s Head, see Pearce, pp. 59, 73. A boar’s head appeared on one version of the Butchers’ Company’s arms: p. 51. Pearce mentions the play on p. 148.Google Scholar
  25. 58.
    Shakespeare, The Second Part of King Henry IV, ed. Humphreys, 1966), 2.1.90–2.1.93.Google Scholar
  26. 62.
    Compare Henry VIII, ed. R. A. Foakes (London: Methuen-Arden Shakespeare, 1964), 1.1.55, 1.1.120, where Wolsey is called a “keech” and “This butcher’s cur.” In a retrospective glance at the history world near the end of his career, Shakespeare emphasizes the tradition that Wolsey was a butcher’s son.Google Scholar
  27. 65.
    1 Henry IV, ed. Humphreys, 2.4.1–2.4.19. On “recording,” see Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 21–65.Google Scholar
  28. 66.
    Rappaport, pp. 219–232. The term bachelor was reserved in special cases for the elite of the yeomanry, well-established and probably married men, so its usage in the passage is not particularly urban in connotation (pp. 221, 226).Google Scholar
  29. 67.
    For tempus edax rerum, or “time the eater of things,” see Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.234. As an English proverb, it is recorded by Tilley (T 326). Shakespeare also alludes to it in Love’s Labour’s Lost 1.1.4, Measure for Measure 5.1.13, and Sonnet 19, lines 1–2.Google Scholar
  30. 69.
    Sara Pennell, “‘Great quantities of gooseberry pie and baked clod of beef’: Victualling and Eating Out in Early Modern London,” in Griffiths and Jenner, pp. 235–236.Google Scholar
  31. 71.
    Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds, pp. 110–117. The “custom of London,” it was often said, allowed such cross-over trading and this frustrated attempts to legislate against it: see chapter 3 of this book. There is some evidence that grocers were especially liable to change trades (p. 110). Stow, as it happens, describes the amalgamation of the Stockfishmongers and Saltfishmongers into a single company in 1536 and recounts their litigious history (I.214–215).Google Scholar
  32. 72.
    The fields about London were notorious as places for sexual encounters, as well as places for military exercises and holiday escape from the city. See Laura Gowing, “‘The Freedom of the Streets’: Women and Social Space, 1560–1640,” in Griffiths and Jenner, pp. 144–145.Google Scholar
  33. 75.
    Virgil, Aeneid 1.430–1.435 and Georgics 4.148–4.227, in Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid I—IV, ed. H. Rushton Fairclough and G. P. Good (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library-Harvard University Press, 1999); Thomas Elyot, The Book called The Governor, ed. S. E. Lehmberg (London: Dent, 1962), pp. 7–8. The lazy drone appears in Georgics and Elyot. Shakespeare’s version of the commonplace anticipates Milton, who argues in the First Defense of the English People that the Georgics’s bees are law-abiding, and thus cannot be used as evidence for the legitimacy of absolute (oriental) monarchies: Pro populo Anglicano defensio, in The Works ofJohn Milton (New York: Columbia, 1932), 7.85–7.87.Google Scholar
  34. 76.
    Charles C. H. Waterland Mander, A Descriptive and Historical Account of the Guild of Cordwainers of the City of London (London: Williams, Lea & Company for the Cordwainers’ Company, 1931), pp. 11, 196. He mentions Henry V on p. 12. On the Cordwainers’ demand to search the shops of alien shoemakers in 1593, see Rappaport, p. 35.Google Scholar
  35. 77.
    On intermarriage, see Archer, Pursuit, p. 131. On ideas of neighborhood, see Wrightson, “The Politics of the Parish,” in Griffiths, Fox, and Hindle, The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996), pp. 18–22.Google Scholar
  36. 78.
    See Annabel Patterson, who also notes that bees were thought to “swarm” when they followed a new leader out of the hive, abandoning their ruler: Shakespeare and the Popular Voice (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), p. 86. On swarming, see Elyot, p. 7.Google Scholar

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© John Michael Archer 2005

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  • John Michael Archer

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