ABSTRACT

Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and The Winter’s Tale, and Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair highlight connections between carnival, economics, and social mobility in urban and rural settings.1 Dekker’s play, which was performed at court before Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers on New Year’s Day in 1600, focuses on the monetary advancement of individuals from the middle and lower ranks during the space and time of a utopian fantasy.2 Carnivalesque episodes, motifs, and figures in this play demarcate a fluid, social hierarchy and emerging market economy and exhibit ambivalence toward republican notions of liberty for aspiring merchants, artisans, and laborers. Shakespeare’s festive comedy Twelfth Night, which refers explicitly to the Twelve Days of Christmas and was first performed for that holiday season in 1601, displays how the aristocracy

1 In “Thomas Dekker’s Twelfth Night,” University of Toronto Quarterly 41 (1971): 66, Arthur Kinney cites C. L. Barber’s remark in Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy, 5-6, that in Elizabethan England “seasonal feasts were not, as now, rare curiosities to be observed by folklorists in remote villages, but landmarks framing the cycle of the year … Shakespeare’s casual references to the holidays always assume that his audience is entirely familiar with them.” Citing M. T. Jones-Davies, Thomas Dekker: Un Peintre de la vie Londonienne (Paris 1958), vol. 1, 126-7, Kinney continues that in The Shoemaker’s Holiday, which was a New Year’s gift to Elizabeth I in 1599, Simon Eyre functions as Lord of Misrule and King of the Bean, titles reminiscent of what a French critic calls a lord of “‘le mardi gras’”: 65-6 and 71. Kinney draws a connection between Dekker’s Shoemaker’s Holiday and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by noting that shoemaker Firk’s clowning in Dekker’s play anticipates that of the clown Feste and Lord of Misrule Sir Toby Belch. He dates the completion of Dekker’s play as September 1599 when the Lord Admiral’s Men were selecting plays for the Queen’s Christmas festivities, suggesting further parallels between it and Twelfth Night written in 1600 (72). In Shakespeare’s Festive World, 43, Laroque relevantly describes Firk as a “Rabelaisian” figure befitting a carnivalesque feast. Ivan Canadas similarly argues that “The Shoemaker’s Holiday is indebted to the communal and popular tradition of carnival” in Public Theater in Golden Age Madrid and Tudor-Stuart London (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 4.