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Shoemaker's Holiday


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Thomas Deloney (1543—1600) silkweaver and writer

Thomas Dekker (c. 1572—1632) playwright and pamphleteer

Simon Eyre (c. 1395—1458) merchant, mayor of London, and civic benefactor

 

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A: Thomas Dekker Pf: 1600, London Pb: 1600 G: Com. in 5 acts; prose and blank verse S: London, indeterminate (late medieval?) period C: 17m, 4f, extrasLacy is in love with Rose, the daughter of the Lord Mayor of London. Lacy's uncle the Earl of Lincoln is opposed to his marrying a commoner and arranges for Lacy to be sent to the wars in France. Lacy, however, soon returns, disguised as a practitioner of the ‘gentle craft’, i.e. as a shoemaker, in order to continue wooing Rose, who is meanwhile being pursued by a gentleman Hammon. Simon Eyre, a ‘mad shoemaker’, becomes Lord Mayor by devious means and marries Lacy to Rose, while another shoemaker Ralph, returning from the wars, discovers Hammon now trying to abduct his wife. Hammon is forced to yield his prize, and the King arrives to pardon Lacy and give his blessing to Lacy's marriage to Rose.

A: Thomas Dekker Pf: 1600, London Pb: 1600 G: Com. in 5 acts; prose and blank verse S: London, indeterminate (late medieval?) period C: 17m, 4f, extras

The Shoemaker's Holiday suffers from a rambling structure and implausible incidents (it is not clear, for example, why the King should be so ready to pardon Lacy's desertion in France). However, the play is full of lively characters and vibrant language, and it works well in production, as was shown in the Mercury Theatre production by Orson Welles in the late 1930s and at the National Theatre in 1981. The play is significant in that it shows the growing power of the merchant class, who are willing to challenge the nobility and gain royal approval in so doing. There may be an inconsistency between Eyre's insistence on honest labour and his own means of achieving power, but this is easily overlooked in the boisterous fun of the action.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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