Pageviews from the past week

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Contemporary allusions in this scene: Critical commentary (Act I, Scene II)

The opening scene in this scene contains a reference to the possibility of some short of settlement being reached between the King of Hungary on one hand and all the Dukes on the other hand. The speech seems to be an allusion to certain contemporary events. Perhaps the reference here is to King James’s negotiations for a settlement with Spain. Peace negotiations had been started in the autumn of 1603. In May 1604, a conference opened at Hampton Court, attended by delegates from Spain and Austrian Netherlands. A draft treaty was prepared in July; and in August 1604, James ratified it by oath. Between May and August 1604, therefore, his prescription of peace with Spain had become a matter of special public concern. In the opening dialogue of this scene Lucio’s companions express some anxiety at that approaching end to the war that had been going on. Their anxiety is due to the fact that many gentlemen, who had anticipated a profitable career as soldiers, would now have to remain out of work if the war came to an end. There is a contemporary allusion in Mistress Overdone’s anxiety. The following speech by her is noteworthy: “Thus, what with the war, what with the sweat, what with the gallows, and what with poverty, I am custom-shrunk.” Mistress Overdone’s complaints links a numbers of factors pertaining to the winter of 1603-04; the continuance of the war with Spain; the plague in London; the treasons, trials, and executions at Winchester in connection with the plots by Raleih and others; and the slackness of trade in the deserted capital (deserted because of the plague). Another topical allusion occurs in Pompey’s telling Mistress Overdone that the government has issued a proclamation according to which all house in the suburbs of Vienna must be plucked down. A proclamation dated the 16th September 1603 had actually been issued by the British government ordering the dismantling of houses and rooms in the suburbs of London as a precaution against the spread of the plague by dissolute and idle persons. The measure, which was strictly enforced during the following months, led to numerous brothels and gambling houses being pulled down on the outskirts of the city (Though the action of the play has been set in Vienna, it is really London and England Which Shakespeare has in mind).

No comments:

Post a Comment

thank you for your wise concern. your comment will be shown after a short review. have a nice time.