English commoners and communities on the early modern stage Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Corrigan, Nora L.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • This dissertation explores the treatment of the English common people, their communities, and their values in a variety of early modern dramatic texts, including Shakespeare's Henry IV plays, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor; Thomas Heywood's Edward IV and If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody plays, Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday, Rowley, Dekker and Ford's The Witch of Edmonton and the anonymous Arden of Feversham, Woodstock, and Sir Thomas More. When modern-day critics write about social relations in this period, their usual range of concerns includes hierarchy and power. Personal relationships among relative equals are a neglected subject in this field, yet they were central to most Elizabethans' lives and world-views. Thus, my reading of these plays focuses on horizontal rather than hierarchical social relationships; the key words are not sovereignty, rule, obedience but neighborliness, brotherhood, fellowship, community. My central thesis is that these texts associate commoners with a specific set of values - mutual help, conviviality, conciliation - which grow out of the social structures of village and urban communities to become the ideological cornerstone of the English commons. These ideas infuse the political rhetoric of stage commoners and inform the ideas about justice, government, and the potential for social change that these characters express.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Dessen, Alan C.
  • Open access

This work has no parents.