The Failure of Husbandry in Joseph Hall’s Virgidemiarum
This chapter focuses on a central patriarchal ideal: the man’s role as provider for himself and the household. The chapter discusses Hall’s two collections of satires together as unified by their focus on the economic foundations of manhood and argues that Virgidemiarum registers unease with perceived changes in masculine ideals that were increasingly focused around ideals of thrift. The range of Hall’s targets is wide, and his satires on the poets of his time frequently depict them as incompetent providers (indeed, his collections end with a poem that sarcastically depicts poets as economically stable and even eligible on the marriage market). Family line and procreation, obsessions among social climbers in the Elizabethan period, are also dealt with at length, exposing upstarts as hypocrites who attain status through ostentatious funeral monuments and fake pedigrees. In connection with these, thrift as an ideal of manhood is condemned as greed, self-interest and irresponsibility. Hall’s satires are unlike other Elizabethan verse satire in that they focus extensively on non-urban contexts, and the rural vistas in his satires are, predictably, painted in bleak colours and described as so many sad reflections of greed and incompetent husbandry.