Juxtaposing the Tragedies of Failed Searches for Passion

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This consequence of jeopardizing stability is dissolved by the fact that this play is a comedy. It serves to juxtapose the tragedies of failed quests for passion by illuminating successful ones. It also serves as a guide to teach contentment within one’s own class through the character of Simon Eyre. Lacy and Rose represent the dissolve of class differences as a whole through their marriage. Lacy abandons the nation by not serving in the war and instead, serves himself by masquerading as a shoemaker. Rose abandons preserving her social climb by marrying Lacy who is now a shoemaker. Lacy shirking his responsibility to the nation to instead serve himself is rewarded in the play by the king.

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The king gives priority to individuality over the national at the end of the play by saying: Besides, your nephew for her sake did stoop To bare necessity and, as I hear, Forgetting honors and all courtly pleasures, To gain her love became a shoemaker. (xxi. 117-122) Dekker provides a happy ending for almost everyone in the play, partly due to the fact that this play is classified as a comedy. Lacy’s choice to renounce his obligations to serve in France is awarded with knighthood, and Otley is pleased with Lacy now because his daughter will become a lady. The only person who does not seem pleased is Lincoln. He tells the king that he is satisfied only “since there’s no other remedy” (xxi.127). Lincoln stands for the way things were. The Shoemaker’s Holiday is classified as a comedy, but it can also be classified as a history.

The happy ending, for the majority of the characters, is akin to how history is perceived by the victors. In addition, its incorporation of holidays serves to give it historical value . In “Corporate Nationalism in Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday” Christopher Morrow states that “The specificity of Eyre’s Background is contrasted with that of the ambiguous character of the king, who lurks on the play’s margins” (Morrow 423). The king in this play is a diminished character who is further marginalized by other references to historical characters like Sir Roger Otley. Morrow further states that the king in the play is marginalized through the allusions to historical figures like Conand Askew, John Hammon, and Sir, John Cornwall. (Morrow 423).

This is done to provide a historical context to the play. Just because this play is a comedy, it does not mean it cannot be history as well. In “Performing Historicity in Dekker’s “The Shoemaker’s Holiday” Brian Walsh introduces the idea that this play should be classified as a history. He writes: “To read The Shoemaker’s Holiday as an Elizabethan history play helps to redefine the limits of that genre, while also helping to redefine the relationship between popular theater and the emerging historical consciousness of the English Renaissance” (Walsh 324). The king’s decision to award Lacy with knighthood is done to create a happy ending in the play, to popularize it.

However, by not naming the king, it creates an emphasis on other characters who allude to historical figures. It provides them with recognition. Recognition is an important theme in a play that is also filled with disguises. The king in the play is disguised because he is nameless. Lacy throughout the play is disguised as a shoemaker to avoid the war and marry Rose, and Rafe is in a disguise as well. Rafe’s disguise might be the most significant one in the play because he juxtaposes Lacy. Both Lacy and Rafe are drafted for the war, and both try to escape their service. Lacy attempts and succeeds escaping martial service, but Rafe is not as fortunate. While Lacy has his own individual voice that is magnified by his desires, Rafe has others speak for him. Morrow writes that “He does not even speak on his own behalf, allowing Simon Eyre and his entire shop to argue for his freedom. His silence emphasizes the split between the individual and the communal as Rafe relies on his membership in a community of shoemakers to argue for him. His community is unable to save him” (Morrow 436).

The character of Lacy is meant to illustrate how nobility, even when disguised, is able to avoid unpleasant circumstances, while the servitude of the working class is always expected. Lacy was able to avoid martial service by stating that he has serious business and justifying his disguise as a shoemaker as divine and kingly. His “serious business” is his passion for Rose. Lacy rejects the traditional ideals of honor and begins to redefine it in his own terms. He chooses his individual desires over the desires of his country and community . Lacy had the luxury to redefine ideals without any repercussions while Rafe did not. Morrow writes: “Rafe, despite also being in love, is not as lucky as Lacy. When he returns lame from the war in France, he learns that his wife, Jane, has been driven away by Eyre’s wife and he knows only that she still lives in London” (Morrow 436). Rafe’s love for his wife was in compliance with the social norms of society.

Rafe did not have rampant passion driving him to disguise himself or flee the war with his wife. Rafe was considered a common man, one who followed the rules set in place by society. Yet, those rules failed him. In the text Rafe says: “My lame leg and travel beyond sea made me unknown” (xviii.15-6). His wife Jane was unable to recognize him, and she ends up engaged to another man. Rafe, in service to his country and king, ends up being physically disabled, unrecognizable and his wife engaged to someone else. Both Rafe and Lacy end up in disguises, Rafe’s a product of war, and Lacy’s intentional to be with his love Rose. The ramifications of jeopardizing stability are eliminated by the fact that this play is a comedy. The Shoemaker’s Holiday serves to juxtapose the tragedies of failed quests for passion by illuminating successful ones. It also serves as a guide to teach contentment within one’s own class through the character of Simon Eyre.

In “Performing Historicity in Dekker’s “The Shoemaker’s Holiday” Brian Walsh writes that “This historicity is structured around the humble rather than the great. Simon Eyre, and not the king with whom he socializes at the play’s end, is the prominent character in The Shoemaker’s Holiday’s historical narrative. In fact, the king is not even named” (Walsh 328). This is significant because it demonstrates how Eyre illustrates the morality associated with class differences. His ability to regulate his passion and emphasis on morals provided him with respect of his community as well as the king. The king namelessness is intentionally done to juxtapose Eyre with the monarchy. Eyre stands for what the people want, while the king is a minuet figure in the play. Eyre represents the community and that morals and love are the most important to the success of society. In all of these plays, passion is portrayed as lust mimicking love. Marlowe’s Edward II portrays a play about the monarchy that deals with class differences amongst the favored. Gaveston’s social status is elevated because he is favored by the king, which demonstrates how passion can shift the social status for an individual. In Arden of Faversham the husband succumbs to an untimely death by his wife Alice because of her passion for Mosby.

This represents how a social institution such as marriage can be easily destroyed by unbridled lust. The fluidity among class differences is most pronounced in Thomas Dekker’s Shoemaker’s Holiday. This play demonstrates mobility among the classes being triggered by love. Lacy moves among the classes by first being a noble, second by becoming a shoemaker because of love, and third being granted knighthood. In all three of these plays, passion undermines the stability of class differences. It is passion that elevated Gaveston in Marlowe’s Edward II, destroyed Alice’s marriage in anonymous Arden of Faversham, and dropped Lacy to a lower and then higher social class in Dekker’s Shoemaker’s Holiday. This observation illustrates how easily the establishment of class differences can be shattered by rampant passion, and how the aftershocks can trickle into social institutions such as marriage, and rank.

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Juxtaposing the Tragedies of Failed Searches for Passion. (2021, Dec 29). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from

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