Contexts

Historical Contexts: Allegory

Early Modern Pedagogy and The Three Ladies of London

Elizabeth Hanson

Abstract: This paper looks at early modern pedagogy as the way English society was being reshaped in the 1580s and 1590s, with its high rate of (over-)educated young men trying to make their way in a virtually ‘closed shop’ workforce. It addresses the idea of the play as ‘propaganda’ in terms of how early modern audiences might have understood its repetitions and multiple variations on social, political, international, and ecclesiastical vice, suspicions of changing loyalties, fear of Catholic intrusion, and especially their own civic behaviour and responsibility for the London formal and informal practices of justice. With examples drawn from tracts on learning and education, the argument will point toward similar learned behaviour in The Three Ladies of London as the way to understand the existing system.

Citation: Hanson, Elizabeth, ‘Early Modern Pedagogy and The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/ElizabethHanson.htm.

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Performing Gender in Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London

Claire Jowitt

Abstract: The ethical dilemma that the play attempts to resolve is the competition between the female characters (Lucre, Conscience, and Love) for mastery over the behaviour and morals of Englishmen, and by so doing it initiates a battle of the sexes. But the terms of the debate make it clear that there can only be one eventual winner: the men. The text evaluates women morally by their sexual continence, but simultaneously it demonstrates that women can achieve power only through promiscuity. The inevitable result is that the women cannot win the battle of the sexes set up as the play's central psycho-sexual dilemma. The play lays a trap: Conscience and Love participate in a competition where success on one level means certain failure on another. Performance options (how these roles are gendered) will inevitably shape the ways an audience experiences the ethical dilemma, and interprets its gender politics.

Citation: Jowitt, Claire, ‘Performing Gender in Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/ClaireJowitt.htm.

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Simple Judgment and The Three Ladies of London

Lloyd Edward Kermode

Abstract: This essay is an initial attempt to understand the moral use of the concept of simplicity in The Three Ladies of London. It studies the conflict in the play (and arguably in Wilson himself) between the desire to produce ‘moral drama’ (ie theatre that presents moral issues for the betterment of its audiences) and the conservative religious conviction that the theatre is inherently bad. The play assumes that simplicity and singleness denote purity and perfection whereas duality entails antagonism, rebellion, and deception (Dissimulation); in the context of the theatre, whose very existence depends on deception, disguise, and duality, the attempt to present moral goodness and simple faith seems like a difficult task, if not an impossibility. The second part of the essay uses Gosson’s critique of the stage as a theatre of moral and political judgment to assess Wilson’s success or failure in combining his moral message with his immoral medium.

Citation: Kermode, Lloyd Edward, ‘Simple Judgment and The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/LloydKermode.htm.

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Wilson, Tarlton, and the Scourge of Simony in Elizabethan Drama

Paul Whitfield White

Abstract: I argue 1) that Wilson’s London plays, like The Return from Parnassus, Part 2, focuses on simony as a problem of lay rather than ecclesiastical patronage of church benefices; 2) that the significant parallels between Three Ladies and the court jest ‘How a parsonage fell into Tarlton’s hands’ suggests that Queen Elizabeth is implicated in simoniacal abuses, that Tarlton himself performed the role of Simplicity in Three Ladies, and the lead role in another Queen’s Men play on 'Don John’s Cellar' satirizing simony; 3) that the satire in these entertainments represents the universal outcry in Elizabethan England against governing-class lay patrons who buy and sell multiple clerical livings, nominate extremist or unqualified candidates, or siphon off tithes for personal profit; 4) that this financial racket, parallel in the sacred sphere to usury in the secular world, is illustrated via the court ‘gallant’ Simony (‘dainty diamond knaue’) who, in Three Ladies, takes a financial cut from the corrupt Peter Pleaseman’s benefice but denies one to Sincerity, the godly minister.

Citation: White, Paul Whitfield, ‘Wilson, Tarlton, and the Scourge of Simony in Elizabethan Drama’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/PaulWhite.htm.

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A Dramaturgical Study of Conscience’s Broom Song in The Three Ladies of London

Katrine Wong

Abstract: This paper examining Conscience's broom-selling song offers a comparative reading of the structure of Conscience's song with that of other item-selling songs; for instance, market songs by Ancient and his crew (which carry ulterior purposes) in Fletcher's The Loyal Subject, Autolycus's peddling songs in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, Nightingale's ballad-selling songs in Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, through which we can deduce a formula of musical promotion of products in early modern England. The discussion proposes a theatrical distinction between street cries, typically sung or chanted fragments, and vendor songs, typically full songs. One other aim of this paper is to explore possible tune(s) for Conscience's song, the musicality of which may shed light on stage performance of what were originally impromptu street cries.

Citation: Wong, Katrine, ‘A Dramaturgical Study of Conscience’s Broom Song in The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/KatrineWong.htm.

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