A Chaste Maid in Cheapside

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A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
‘Our scene is London, ’cause we would make known
No country’s mirth is better than our own.
No clime breeds better matter for your whore,
Bawd, squire, impostor, many persons more
Whose manners, now called humours, feed the stage,
And which have still been subject for the rage
Or spleen of comic writers.’ (Ben Jonson, ‘Prologue’ to The Alchemist, 1610)
Gary Taylor, editor, Oxford Complete Works of Thomas Middleton (2007):
Middleton -- ‘our other Shakespeare’ – was ‘the only writer of the English Renaissance who created plays
still considered masterpieces in four dramatic genres: comedy, history, tragedy, and tragi-comedy… the
only playwright trusted by Shakespeare’s company after his death to adapt Shakespeare’s plays [see
additions to Measure for Measure and Macbeth].
A Londoner born in Cheap Ward (which took its name from the market held there) in1580 (making him
16 years younger than Shakespeare and Marlowe), he was among the third generation of playwrights for
the London stage – and among the first to have the work of William Shakespeare to observe, learn from
and raid.
Taylor calls Middleton in satirical mode the ‘Hogarth of the pen’ and says of his street-wise, highly topical
and demotic lexicon that (along with writing English for ‘now’) he ‘sexed language and languaged sex
more comprehensively and creatively than any other writer in English’ – and tried out more sexual
positions (from stalking and sexual blackmail, masochism, necrophilia, paedophilia, impotence,
castration, male and female transvestism, to ‘back door sex’) in his plots than anyone except the Italian
pornographer, Aretino (Works, p. 25). He’s not a playwright for queasy stomachs – and yet he wrote (in his
twenties) plays like A Trick to Catch the Old One and A Mad World My Masters ( plays which, writes Valerie
Wayne, treat ‘early modern greed’, see ‘figures of youth and wit… outmanoeuvre age and avarice, and
represent ‘mercenary marriage as a socially sanctioned form of theft [Works, p. 373]) for the boys’
company, The Children of St Paul’s.
Recap: ‘ideas’ of the city
The city = expression of rational male dominance over nature
through the control of the environment by abstract patterns: the
straight line, the circle, the square.
The city figured as woman: Thomas Dekker in The Wonderful
Year (1603). London is the ‘goodliest’, the ‘wealthiest’, the
‘fairest’ city, a ‘bride’; but London is also the ‘prowdst’, ‘most
wanton’ and ‘foulest’ city, a ‘harlot’.
John Stow in his Survey of London (1598) describes Goldsmiths’
Row (where the Yellowhammers have their shop and residence),
as ‘the most beautiful frame of fair houses and shops that be
within the walls of London or elsewhere in England.’
Middleton’s map: St Paul’s,
Cheapside, Poultry,
Smithfield, Pissing Conduit
Goldsmith’s Row, Puddle
Wharf, Trig Stairs, Holborn
Bridge, Blackfriars, The
Strand, the Exchange
‘The shopkeeper’s formula “What is’t you lack?” (1.1.100) is apt for a consumer society—
not having everything is construed as lack…In a play where much is consumed, the
consumer society creates not wealth but lack. The absence from the play of those citycomedy favourites, prostitutes, bawds, and usurers, alerts us to the fact that it locates its
marketed sex not in the streets but within marriage, while the complement of marketed
sex, the usurer’s grasping materialism, here resides within the respectable milieu of
shopkeepers and tradesmen’ (Linda Woodbridge, Works p. 907).
Allwit: The founder’s come to town. I am like a man –
Finding a table furnished to his hand,
As mine is still to me – prays for the founder;
Bless the right worshipful, the good founder’s life.
I thank him, h’as maintained my house this ten years,
Not only keeps my family; I am at his table,
He gets me all my children, and pays the nurse,
Monthly, or weekly, puts me to nothing,
Rent, nor church duties, not so much as the scavenger:
The happiest state that ever man was born to…When she lies in,
As now she’s even upon the point of grunting,
A lady lies not in like her; there’s her embossings,
Embroiderings, spanglings, and I know not what,
As if she lay with all the gaudy shops
In Gresham’s Burse about her; then her restoratives,
Able to set up a young ’pothecary…
I see these things, but like a happy man,
I pay for none at all, yet fools thinks’ mine;
I have the name, and in his gold I shine.
And where some merchants would in soul kiss hell…
These torments stand I free of. I am as clear
From jealousy of a wife as from the charge….the knight
Hath took that labour all out of my hands; …
He has both the cost and torment (1.2.12- 55)
Allwit (disguised as one of the ‘Yellowhammers in Oxfordshire, / Near Abbington’[to his
‘coz’ Yellowhammer): I understand by rumours your have a daughter…
I hear she’s toward a marriage.
And with a knight in town, Sir Walter Whorehound… It may be yet recalled? …
He’s an arrant whoremaster, consumes his time and state,
----------- whom he in my knowledge he hath kept this seven years,
Nay, coz, another man’s wife too….Maintains the whole house, apparels the husband,
Pays servants’ wages …
Yellowhammer: O abominable … Worse and worse, and doth the husband know this? …
Has he children too? .. O this news has cut into my heart coz…
I’ll mark him for a knave and villain for’t,
A thousand thanks and blessings, I have done with him.
Allwit [aside]: Ha, ha, ha, this knight will stick by my ribs still.
I shall not lose him yet, no wife will come,
Wher’er he woos, I find him still at home, ha, ha! [Exit]
Yellowhammer: Well, grant all this, say now his deeds are black.
Pray what serves marriage, but to call him back?
I have kept a whore myself, and had a bastard,
By Mistress Anne, in Anno --I care not who knows it …
The knight is rich, and he shall be my son-in-law.
No matter so the whore he keeps be wholesome.
My daughter takes no hurt then, so let them wed.
I’ll have him sweat well e’er they go to bed. (4.1.200 – 280)
Research …
Making the Work of Play: Michael Pavelka
CCR: When Tony Harrison – northern working
class lad, grammar school boy, poet, playwright
– is having one of his regular anxiety attacks
about how to maintain his working class street
cred, he writes some ‘Lines to My
Grandfathers’. One of them was a fell farmer,
another a railwayman. The third brewed beer.
And Harrison, to keep company with these
manual workers, borrows from Yeats phrases he
wants to apply to the work of writing poetry: it’s
‘sedentary toil’; ‘difficulty’s our plough’.
Academics who engage themselves to 'Working
With Shakespeare' would probably put their
work in the category of ‘sedentary toil’.
Certainly, trying to match wits with Billy Big
Boy, ‘difficulty’s our plough’. But as makers,
academics are more like Harrison than his
grandfathers. We’re poets: the work is word
work, taking Shakespeare’s words and turning
them in to other words.
Michael Pavelka works differently with
Shakespeare. He takes Shakespeare’s words
and turns them into objects: things for actors
to use in performance, things for spectators to
engage with in watching, things that set the
world of the play and make the play work.
Archivio di Stato, Venice
Esposizioni Principi XIV
1604 a primero ottobre
Letta in pregadi à
.2.ottobre 1604
Venuto questa mattina nell'
Eccellentissimo Collegio in publica
audientia il Signor Ambasciator
d'Inghiliterra, accompagnato dell'
Illustrissimo Signor cavalier Vendramin,
et da numero di senatori secondo
l'ordinario, recevuta da sua Serenità con
termine di honore et di affettione,
seduto che fù, disse bassamento, che si
rallegrava di ritrovar sua Serenità nella
buona salute et prosperità che la vedeva
et appresentò una lettera la qual fà letta,
et questa è la traduttione….
The Digital Diplomatic Bag
7 October Scaramelli report
Esposizioni Principi 14
CSPV 282, p. 185
Italian Transcription
English Translation
Havendo il Signor Ambasciator d'Inghilterra fatto sapere à
me Giovanni
Carlo Scaramelli secretario et servitor humilissimo della
Serenità Vostra
che era giunto in questa Città a 23 de'l passatto
dove desiderava star senza saputo di niuno cinque
o sei giorni, non solo per veder la sua casa accommodata
prima che ammetter visite, ma anco per
pigliar un poco di purga in questa stagione, et
che se ben è stato altre volte in Venetia non conoscendo
egli qui con tutto ciò altra persona publica
che me, mi pregava di volermi trovar seco,
per poter concertar con volontà della Serenità Vostra
le cerimonie della sua publica entrata in
Venetia, et della sua prima publica audientia,
et havendo io fatto saper riverentemente
questo tanto alli Eccellentissimi Signori Savij che in
mi ordinorono di prender la licentia, d
alli Eccellentissimi Signori Capi del Consiglio de X [Dieci],
et poi di
andarvi come ho fatto à 27 secondo l'hora
assignatami, mi disse il Signor Ambasciator dopo premesse
alcune parole di ufficio, che egli haveva desiderato
di abboccarsi meco per poter saper
The Digital Diplomatic Bag
By name
By Topic
July 2d. 1613.
Sir, … Now to let matters of State sleep, I will entertain you at the present
with what hath happened this Week at the Bank side. The King’s Players
had a new Play called All is true, representing some principal pieces of the
Reign of Henry the 8th which was set forth with many extraordinary
Circumstances of Pomp and Majesty, even to the matting of the Stage; the
Kings of the Order, with their Georges and Garter, the Guards with their
embroidered Coats, and the like: sufficient in truth within a while to make
Greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous. Now, King Henry Making a
Masque at the Cardinal Wolsey’s House, and certain Cannons being shot
off at his entry, some of the Paper, or other stuff, wherewith one of them
was stopped, did light on the Thatch, where being thought at first but an
idle smoak, and their Eyes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly,
and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole
House to the very ground. This was the fatal period of that virtuous
Fabrique; wherein yet nothing did perish, but Wood and Straw, and a few
forsaken Cloaks; only one Man had his Breeches set on fire, that would
perhaps have broyled him, if he bad not by the benefit of a provident wit
put it out with Bottle Ale. The rest when we meet.: till when, I protest
every minute is the Siege of Troy. God’s dear Blessings till then and ever
be with you. Your poor Uncle, and faithful Servant, H. Wotton
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