Men on the road: beggars and vagrants in early modern drama (William Shakespeare, John Fletcher, and Richard Brome)

by Kim, Mi-Su

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation examines beggars, gypsies, rogues, and vagrants presented in early modern English drama, with the discussion of how these peripatetic characters represent the discourses of vagrancy of the period. The first chapter introduces Tudor and early Stuart governments' legislation and proclamations on vagabondage and discusses these governmental policies in their social and economic contexts. The chapter also deals with the literature of roguery to point out that the literature (especially in the Elizabethan era) disseminated such a negative image of beggars as impostors and established the antagonistic atmosphere against the wandering poor. The second chapter explores the anti-theatrical aspect of the discourses of vagrancy. Along with the discussion of early playing companies' traveling convention, this chapter investigates how the long-held association of players with beggars is addressed in the plays that are dated from the early 1570s to the closing of the playhouses in 1642. In the third chapter I read Shakespeare's King Lear with the focus on its critical allusions to the discourses of vagrancy and interpret King Lear's symbolic experience of vagrancy in that context. The chapter demonstrates that King Lear represents the spatial politics embedded in the discourses of vagrancy and evokes a sympathetic understanding of the wandering poor. Chapter IV focuses on Beggars' Bush and analyzes the beggars' utopian community in the play. By juxtaposing the play with a variety of documents relating to the vagrancy issue in the early seventeen century, I contend that Beggars' Bush reflects the cultural aspirations for colonial enterprises in the early Stuart age. Chapter V examines John Taylor's conceptualization of vagrancy as a trope of travel and free mobility, and discusses the "wanderlust" represented in A Jovial Crew: Merry Beggars as an exemplary anecdote showing the mid seventeenth century's perceptions on vagrancy and spatial mobility. Thus, by exploring diverse associations and investments regarding vagrants, this study demonstrates that the early modern discourses of vagrancy have been informed and inflected by shifting economic, socio-historical, and national interests and demands.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Harner, James L.; Brooks, Douglas A.; Marchitello, Howard J.; Rosenheim, James M.

School:Texas A&M University

School Location:USA - Texas

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:early modern english literature renaissance drama william shakespeare john fletcher richard brome vagrancy beggar of roguery


Date of Publication:09/30/2004

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