Transforming the Younger Son: The Disruptive Affect of the Gentleman-Apprentice in Eastward Ho
Chapman, Jonson, and Marston’s 1605 play, Eastward Ho, with its two younger gentry sons contracted to a London goldsmith, satirically stages contemporary social struggle over the identity of the gentle born apprentice in London. The play begins with a fracas between the master goldsmith Touchstone and his apprentice, Francis Quicksilver, over their divergent prioritizations of Quicksilver’s identity. While Touchstone insists, “Sirrah, … I am thy master, William Touchstone, goldsmith, and thou my prentice, Francis Quicksilver” (1.1.12-14),1 Quicksilver, chafing against the restrictions of apprenticeship as an insult to the privileges of a natural born gentleman, struts around the stage bedecked in the gear of a young gallant about the town, and insolently swears to a superior status: “Why, s’blood, sir, my mother’s a gentlewoman, and my father a justice of the peace and of quorum; and though I am a younger brother and a prentice, yet I hope I am my father’s son” (1.1.26-29). Quicksilver holds firm to this identity; within the first three scenes of the play, he claims his gentle status no less than twelve times, including four references to his father, one to his mother, and two to his right to bear arms.