Englishmen for My Money


Englishmen for My Money

"Englishmen for My Money, or A Woman Will Have Her Will" is an Elizabethan era stage play, a comedy written by William Haughton that dates from the year 1598. Scholars and critics often cite it as the first city comedy; [Andrew Stott, "Comedy," London, Routledge, 2005; p. 44.] the play inaugurated a sub-genre of drama that was exploited and developed by Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton, and others in the years and decades that followed.

Performance and publication

The records of theatre manager and impressario Philip Henslowe show that Haughton received installment payments for his work on the play between November 1597 and May 1598. The play is thought to have been premiered onstage, by the Admiral's Men at the Rose Theatre, before the end of the latter year.

The work was entered into the Stationers' Register on August 3, 1601, but was not published until 1616, when the first quarto edition was issued by the stationer William White. A second quarto appeared in 1626, from Hugh Perry, and a third in 1631, printed by Augustine Matthews for Richard Thrale. [E. K. Chambers, "The Elizabethan Stage," 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923; Vol. 3, pp. 334-5.]

Plot

The play is set among the contemporary merchant class of London in its own era, the men who dealt on the Royal Exchange founded by Sir Thomas Gresham. The merchant and moneylender Pisaro has three half-English daughters, Laurentia, Marina, and Mathea. The daughters face two trios of suitors, one foreign and one domestic. The foreigners are Delion, a Frenchman, Alvaro, and Italian, and Vandal, a Dutchman. Pisaro, himself from Portugal, favors these candidates because of their wealth; but his daughters prefer their English suitors, Harvey, Heigham, and Walgrave. The play is rich in courtship, dialect humor, and disguises and gender cross-dressing, with abundant comic material from the clown character Frisco. In the end, as the title indicates, the Englishmen win their brides (which helps to cancel out the debts they owe to Pisaro).

Biases

The play displays a popular dislike of Englishwomen being courted by foreigners that is also expressed in Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor," which was written and acted at about the same time (c. 1597–99). Critics have studied the play for its attitude toward, and treatment of, foreigners in England. [A. J. Hoenselaars, "Images of Englishmen and Foreigners in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporarie,." Rutherford, NJ, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992; pp. 53-62.] Some critics have interpreted the character Pisaro as a Jew; though the word "Jew" is never used in the play, Pisaro compares himself to Judas and is called "Signior Bottle-nose," [John Berryman, "Berryman's Shakespeare: Essays, Letters, and Other Writings," John Haffenden, ed.; New York, Tauris Parke, 2001; Introduction (Haffenden), p. lv.] which has been read as an expression of the anti-Semitism endemic in English and European culture in the period. [Matthew S. Biberman, "Masculinity, Anti-Semitism, and Early Modern English Literature: From the Satanic to the Effeminate Jew," London, Ashgate, 2004; pp. 58-9.]

References


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