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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The London citizen in Elizabethan drama, 1590-1620 Heaps, Doreen Mary


This essay deals with the London citizen in Elizabethan drama from 1590-1620. In it I have tried to give a picture of the citizen's possession, habits and beliefs as they appear in the plays of the period. In the introduction I defined the terms I used, defended the limits of the essay,and discussed the sources. I set forth, also, the method that I followed in arranging the material. I divided the essay into two sections. In the first I gave the background for the plays by describing,in-chapter one, the development of the citizen class; In chapter two, the appearance of London; In chapter three, the ideals of the sixteenth century citizen. In the second section I discussed various portions of the citizen's life and supported my conclusions by many references to the drama. The second section was based almost directly on the plays. The fourth chapter was the one exception. In it I discussed the playwrights' contribution to the middle class drama and their attitudes towards the citizens. The fifth chapter illustrated the third one and, on the whole, followed the same plan. I included in it, however, references to the vices into which the citizen was led by two, eager a pursuit of his ideals. Chapter six dealt with Elizabethan business management and chapter seven with the position of the citizen's womenfolk. Under business management, I considered the merchant adventurer, the loan merchant or usurer, the craftsman and the apprentice. In the following chapter I examined the citizen's attitude towards women and its reflection in the drama. The houses and gardens, food and drink, jewels and clothing of the London citizen were the subjects of chapter eight. Religion and superstition was the heading for chapter nine and Morals and Mores for chapter ten. In the former I gave illustrations of the Londoner 's attitude towards Puritans and Roman Catholics and examples of blue citizen's amazing belief in all forms of magic. The tenth chapter contained references to theft, murder,and adultery as well as to smoking, swearing, drinking and playgolng. The succeeding two chapters were concerned,firstly, with the Londoner's opinion of social welfare and, secondly, with his concept of the state. Under these headings I discussed laws against vagrants; imprisonment for debt, insanity or immorality, and references to the citizen's ideal state. In the thirteenth chapter I listed the amusements of the middle class and examined the citizen's response to the theatre, plays, books, games, puppet shows, dances,and songs. In the second last chapter I attempted to define the conventional Elizabethan opinion of various trades and professions. In my conclusion I recapitulated the points that I had made throughout the essay. I drew attention to the constant appearance of two attitudes towards the citizen, mentioned again the reasons that I gave for them, and stated,once more, my opinion of their respective truths. I repeated that I thought a middle course had to be taken between the two attitudes. Then, I discussed briefly the artistic value of the middle class drama and concluded that it it possessed little, if any, literary merit and contained, few memorable figures. I spoke, finally, of the plays'value as social documents. I said that they contained much information on details of food and drink, but added that only in the early part of the period could they be said to reflect the citizen's ethos completely. From 1610 on the drama seemed to me to be too one-sided to be very reliable or of much value in helping one form a balanced picture of the London citizen's attitude of mind.

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