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Covent Garden Weeded

Edited by M. Leslie

The Weeding of Covent Garden

Critical IntroductionMichael Leslie
The Title1The play’s title appears in three forms in its only printing before the nineteenth century. On the titlepage to the 1659 volume, Five New Plays, the title is The Weeding of Covent Garden; but this play has a separate titlepage, dated 1658, and there the title is given as The Weeding of the Covent Garden. Or the Middlesex Justice of Peace. A Facetious Comedy. The title on the first page of the play text (B1r) and in the running-head is The Covent-Garden Weeded. This edition uses The Weeding of Covent Garden as its preferred title: even though this is not one of the three titles in the 1659 volume, it is that most commonly used in modern discussion of the play.Date2There is no incontrovertible evidence for the date of either composition or first performance for The Weeding of Covent Garden. The contemporary relevance of the topic to the building and control of Covent Garden and a number of other references (to the Soap Monopoly, royal Proclamations encouraging country pastimes and discouraging gentry and aristocratic residence in London, and disputes over the licensing of taverns and inns in and around London, and specifically in the Covent Garden area) argue for a date in the early 1630s; and Matthew Steggle’s summary of the issues and his conclusions are persuasive. Steggle suggests that The Weeding of Covent Garden ‘was written in the second half of 1632 or in 1633’; and that it was probably performed shortly after composition while still highly topical.n9759 R.J. Kaufmann surveys much of the same material and reaches a similar conclusion: ‘Summarizing the evidence brought forward, it would seem that Covent-Garden Weeded was composed in the late months of 1632 and early 1633 to be performed around May, 1633. Certainly the play dates after the Royal Proclamation of June 20, 1632, directing the gentry to keep to their country houses - several months later from the quality of the allusions to it. It probably antedates May 10, 1633’.n97603The relevant topical references are these:

1. The soap monopoly granted to the Society of Soapmakers of Westminster, 1631; opposition to the monopoly became open and vigorous by May 1633n9761
2. Royal Proclamation directing the gentry to remain in their localities, 20 June 1632 (Kaufmann, p. 74)
3. Charles I’s Declaration concerning country pastimes, 10 October 1633 (Kaufmann, p. 73)
4The 1659 volume contains two prologues and two epilogues. In both cases, the second appears to be for a revival: they celebrate, counting the chickens a little too soon, the successful promotion of the Covent Garden development as a centre of polite society:[The second prologue]
’Tis not amiss ere we begin our play,
T’entreat you, that you take the same survey
Into your fancy, as our poet took,
Of Covent Garden, when he wrote his book,
Some ten years since, when it was grown with weeds,
Not set, as now it is, with noble seeds,
Which make the garden glorious. And much
Our poet craves and hopes you will not grutch
It him, that since so happily his pen
Foretold its fair improvement, and that men
Of worth and honour should renown the place,
The play may still retain its former grace.

[The second epilogue]
’Tis done. And now that poets can divine,
Observe with what nobility doth shine
Fair Covent Garden. And as that improves,
May we find like improvement in your loves.
5Given the second prologue’s reference to the play’s composition ‘some ten years since’, scholars agree that this revival probably took place in the years immediately before the Civil War and the closing of the theatres.Performance and stage history6Beyond the second prologue and epilogue (and possible reflections on the play by Thomas Nabbes in 1638 - see below), I have been unable to find any records of or references to stagings in the 1630s or 40s. Nor have I found any record of stagings after the Restoration of 1660 and the reopening of the commercial theatres.7The Weeding of Covent Garden was performed in the ‘Read Not Dead’ series in the Globe Education Centre at the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London on Sunday 14 November 1999, co-ordinated by Alison Skilbeck. The Globe has an audio recording of this performance, which took just under three hours. Listening to the performance and the audience reaction confirms the play’s humour and theatricality.8Working with theatre professionals for this edition has illuminated many aspects of the play, and these are often commented on in the notes. In general, what emerged was the easy comprehensibility of the drama, a testimony to Brome’s skill as a writer of commercial comedy. Frequently, one was also aware of his understated skill in varying rhythms and transitioning between prose and verse as means of communicating subtle changes to an audience: a character’s becoming more serious or returning to satire; a new prominence for romance and the affective; and so on. Brome is no great poet, but his consciousness of rhythm and its importance in framing an audience’s understanding and response are impressive.Context in Drama of 1620s and 30s9Brome’s play is usually held to be one of a number in the briefly fashionable sub-genre of ‘place realism’ dramas, dating from the early 1630s.n9762 These are all late essays in the Jacobean genre of ‘city comedy’. As well as The Weeding of Covent Garden, Brome’s other works in this sub-genre include The New Academy and The Sparagus Garden. Other works commonly described as belonging in the ‘place-realism’ category are Shackerley Marmion’s Holland’s Leaguer, James Shirley’s Hyde Park, and, importantly in this context, Thomas Nabbes’s Covent Garden.10City comedy became one of the dominant theatrical genres just as London itself grew at a pace that startled, fascinated, and alarmed contemporaries.n9763 Although London had been England’s dominant city for centuries, its early-modern development, in terms of population, commercial activity, wealth, and power, placed it in an entirely different category from every other English town and, increasingly, from all but a few cities in Europe and the known world. London dwarfed other English urban centres by 1600, but its differences were not simply of scale: this metropolis, with its large ‘stranger’ or foreign populations, proximity to the sophisticated and dynamic commercial towns of the Low Countries, burgeoning population, consumer-driven economy, high mortality rates, ceaseless inward migration, and disproportionate youthfulness, manifested social structures and organization hitherto unknown. Exciting and turbulent, London must have been an irresistible subject for drama and, paradoxically, for comedy in particular. Comedy is traditionally rule-based, often seen as inherently conservative, and takes much of its energy from status-differences between characters; but early modern London was throwing out the rule book and revealing apparently solid boundaries to be instantly permeable in its particular and peculiar conditions. Comedy tends to celebrate order; London city comedy may end with an appeal to order, as in Crosswill’s final speech [CG 5.3.speech1246] in The Weeding of Covent Garden, but along the way it reveals the suspicion that such order is imposed, extrinsic, anything but organic, and maybe little more than a comforting fiction. Strikingly, the Crosswill who banishes the disorderly at the play’s conclusion is the same character who so obviously delights in and is fascinated by the turbulence of London social life a few moments before: ‘Heigh, excellent good again. Heigh, heigh, what an happiness may fathers boast, that can bring their children up to this’ [CG 4.2.speech976].11Few dramatists can have been as conscious of this as Brome. The apprentice of Ben Jonson, the greatest master of city comedy as satire, he, like Jonson, appears to have been of ambiguous or complex social origin. Unlike Shakespeare, who came from Stratford and returned there in retirement, both Jonson and Brome were London men through and through (Brome ended his days in the Charterhouse, impoverished). London is an essential character in many of their plays. In The Weeding of Covent Garden Brome’s relationship with Jonson’s city comedy is at its most obvious, and deliberately so: Brome makes his character Cockbrain explicitly compare himself with his hero, ‘my reverend ancestor Justice Adam Overdo’, of Bartholomew Fair [CG 1.1.speech10] [CG 3.1.speech494]12Bartholomew Fair dates from 1614 (it was printed in 1631), and both London life and London drama had changed by the early 1630s. The Weeding of Covent Garden continues the satiric city comedy tradition, but it is written and first performed during a resurgence of romantic comedy, with revivals of, among others, Pericles and The Winter’s Tale. Brome’s satire often threatens to be as penetrating as Jonson’s, but in his plays satire takes its place alongside more genial and forgiving elements: he brandishes the lash but rarely applies it with single-minded Jonsonian vigour. If Cockbrain sees himself as the heir of Overdo, one is tempted to wonder whether Crosswill - irascible, energetic, perverse, and thoroughly self-contradictory in matters of morality and social hierarchy - is in some ways a reflection of Jonson; and while Crosswill is portrayed with affection and amusement, his limitations are also exposed.13Flawed and interrogated though he is, Crosswill presides over The Weeding of Covent Garden, and the play seems splendidly conscious of its many ambivalences and to be engaging playfully with its audience as it exposes enthusiasms and condemnations that are mutually incompatible. Above all, by setting the play in the noisy, still-smelly building work of the new development it acknowledges the provisionality of the protean urban society it represents and of any judgements made and delivered. We may not go as far as Matthew Steggle is saying that ‘the location is creating the action’ (p. 50), but we can surely agree that the choice of scene is inspired. Covent Garden’s newest resident epitomizes its paradoxes and instability: Crosswill assumes his authority on the basis of his status as a member of the landed gentry, but he does so just as he has sold all his land. The shape and dimensions of his social self are changing, just as are those of the London in which he has arrived;n9764 his engagement with magistracy and structures of authority are indeterminate and questionable, just as were those of the new suburbs beyond the boundaries of the City. Cockbrain strives energetically to impose mores and replicate the enforcement regimes of the City;n9765 but his efforts are viewed sceptically by Crosswill, who finds the energies of Covent Garden intoxicating.14Thomas Nabbes’s play Covent Garden is commonly dated to 1633, though evidence for the date of its composition and first performances is scarce; it was printed in 1638, and the titlepage states that it was acted in 1632. Its 1638 printing begins with a prologue that seems to suggest that Brome’s play was performed first, even though Nabbes had the first idea of a drama set in Covent Garden. Nabbes’s prologue appears to attack Brome’s play on a number of grounds, representing itself as being unlike another unnamed drama which is derivative, contrived, overly satiric, too long in the writing, and immoral - any playfulness and sophistication in Brome’s play seem to have passed by his rival unnoticed and unappreciated (or perhaps Brome’s urbanity upset Nabbes even more):

Doe not expect th' abuses of a Place;
Nor th'ills sprung from a Strumpets painted face
To be exprest. Our Author doth not meane
With such vile stuffe to clothe his modest Scoene.
Nor doth he brand it with a Satyres marke;
But makes a Justice wiser then his Clerke.
His Rusticks likewise will pretend to Wit:
So all the Persons which wee counterfeit.
He justifies that 'tis no borrow'd Straine,
From the invention of anothers braine.
Nor did he steale the Fancie. 'Tis the same
Hee first intended by the proper Name.
'Twas not a toyle of yeares: few weekes brought forth
This rugged Issue, might have beene more worth
If he had lick'd it more. Nor doth he raise
From th' imitation of authenticke Playes
Matter or words to height: nor bundle up
Conceits at Tavernes where the Wits doe sup.
His Muse is solitary, and alone
Doth practise her low speculation.
He hath no faction in a partiall way,
Prepar'd to cry it up, and boast the Play,
Swelling your expectations: hee relies
Meerely upon your ingenuities.
The Matter's weake: how can the Building stand?
Yes; if supported by a gratious Hand.n9903
15The epilogue continues in this vein of criticism, again appearing to attack Brome’s contrivance in the multiple weddings that conclude his play, the use of disguise, and what Nabbes appears to feel are breaches of dramatic unity:

Y' Ave seene a Play, wherein was no disguise;
No Wedding; no improbable devise:
But all an easie matter, and contein'd
Within the time of action. 'Tis arraign'd;
And doubtfull stands before your judgements barre,
Expecting what your severall censures are.
Some that pretend commission to the Stage,
As th'only Cato's of this Critick Age;
Condemning all not done by imitation,
Because this new Play hath a new foundation
Wee feare will cry it downe: our hope is then
That your faire hands will raise it up agen.(p. 74)
16There are certainly similarities between the plays. Obviously, both are set in Covent Garden and make use of the novelty and fashionableness of the location, though references to the ‘rails’ surrounding parts of the Piazza in Nabbes’s play show that he is concerned with that central space and not, as is Brome, with the ambiguous social composition of the surrounding streets which promiscuously mixed polite lodgings with taverns and brothels. Both have members of the country coming to town in the hope of participating in fashionable life: Dungworth says at the outset that ‘I am resolv’d to forsake the Countrey profession of mine Auncestors; and meane to turne Gallant. Ile sell some few dirty Acres, and buy a Knighthood: Ile translate my Farme of Dirt-all into the Mannor of No-place’ (p. 3); in this he resembles Crosswill.17Nabbes also has a character who, like Clotpoll, is determined to capture the wittiness of what he encounters by laboriously writing it down: the silent character Littleword, who unnerves some of those around him by writing in his ‘Table-Booke’. Like Brome, Nabbes uses the vocabulary of construction for various jokes and puns: Artlove comments on Covent Garden’s ‘new erections’ to the busy gossip: ‘Mistresse Tongall, you are delighting your selfe with these new erections’ (p. 6), to which she replies, ‘Faire erections are pleasing things’. Artlove then comments on the uniformity of Covent Garden’s new buildings, which leads Tongall to the balconies: ‘How like you the Balconee’s? They set off a Ladies person well, when she presents her selfe to the view of gazing passengers. Artificiall fucations are not discern’d at distance’ (pp. 6-7). These jokes are similar to Brome’s, but less interesting and less subtle in the context of the play; and though Nabbes also has tavern scenes, there is none of Brome’s (and Crosswill’s) delight at and fascination with the turbulent energies of such social spaces. Nabbes does use the balcony to a greater degree, having a glove fall from it and placing some characters there to observe action below. And he includes a version of Brome’s observation that Covent Garden has become so thoroughly urbanized that there is nothing of the garden about it: Dungworth, the man from the country, says,

A Garden call you it! 'Tis a very barren one.(p. [1])
18But it seems typical of the differences between the two plays that this is stated explicitly by Nabbes whereas the audience is left to draw distinctions and inferences independently in Brome’s play.Themes19Neither Brome nor The Weeding of Covent Garden in particular has generated voluminous critical commentary, but with increased interest in Caroline theatre this is changing. Notwithstanding the limited commentary, there are still strains of interpretation of The Weeding of Covent Garden that need to be questioned. This introduction may seem overly concerned with dispersing misapprehensions but only when assumptions and preconceptions are cleared away will it be possible to confront the play’s themes with clarity. Ira Clark notes the radically different conclusions reached by various critics, each of whose judgements seems to be driven by something other than the text: ‘[R.J.] Kaufmann portrays a nostalgic conservative concerned to preserve Elizabethan values, [Martin] Butler a radical political critic’.n990420Brome-as-conservative is no longer fashionable,n9905 and the assumptions and modern scholarly preoccupations I shall question are principally to do with the desire to read this play - and indeed all early modern literature - as being essentially concerned with power and the state, with The Weeding of Covent Garden being seen as in some ways a satiric commentary on high politics and the tensions between the king and his more radical subjects, tensions that would erupt into civil war in the 1640s. Exciting though the 1640s and 50s are to modern scholars, particularly New Historicists and their heirs, Brome was writing when few anticipated such a cataclysm; the conflicts that can seem so clear, stark, and simple to us in the twenty-first century appeared utterly different to contemporaries: less coherent, less defined, and less destined to require physical conflict for resolution.21In this regard it is worth noticing what is not in The Weeding of Covent Garden, particularly in relation to the points of tension and conflict in Caroline England often fascinating to modern historians, and literary historians in particular.22Covent Garden as a district is often associated with resurgent Roman Catholicism, encouraged and enabled by the entourage of Queen Henrietta Maria; but there are no Catholics in Brome’s play, and only a single reference to the papists. Modern writers privilege conflict over the Church and the controversial role of an Arminian ministry in the 1630s; but there is no speaking cleric in the play, just the Parson who mutely follows various couples off-stage to officiate at their marriages. Covent Garden was supposed to be the haunt of ‘strangers’, those suspect foreigners and particularly the subversive French, whose presence sometimes agitated Londoners to riot; yet there are no foreigners in The Weeding of Covent Garden, and the exotic Italianness claimed by Dorcas is the subject of dismissive humour.23Rather than tensions between court and country, or court and city, the group tensions of the play are in fact between polite society, riotous gangs of young males, the demi-monde of courtesanship and prostitution, and those uppity tradesmen, represented here by the tailors, shoemakers, and inn-keepers, who supply polite society with luxuries and consumables, and who, instead of remaining in the traditional manufacturing and commercial districts of London, are steadily infiltrating the Covent Garden development, threatening to dominate it (as indeed happened and continues to the present: a glance at the electoral rolls for Westminster and, particularly, Covent Garden in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries shows that these districts were dominated not by members of ‘polite’ society but by those who catered to polite consumers. In the 1818 roll, the descendents of Mihil’s dogged pursuers, tailors and shoemakers, are prominent and numerous). There is a single reference to Parliament in The Weeding of Covent Garden. Of all the characters, Crosswill is of the legislative and magisterial class, yet there is no reference to his performing such roles in the present or the past. His elder son Gabriel has served in the local militia in the West Country; otherwise, we hear little of anyone’s performance of expected roles in society.24The 1630s are often represented as manifesting the increasing paternalism and authoritarianism of the monarchy; yet The Weeding of Covent Garden contains no single authority figure and no-one possessing an aristocratic title. The character who most obviously attempts to impose authority is Cockbrain, who aspires to be an urban magistrate. This is a highly unlikely way of representing Charles I.25Given that London is one of the play’s principal characters, it is also instructive to note that a narrow band of urban activity is represented: there is no churchgoing, no mention of ward, guild, or livery company meetings. There is no mention of attending to law cases. The focus is clearly on the lives of the well-to-do and leisured, consumers of goods and entertainment (a broad category that ranges from food and drink to whores), and on the activities of those who supply and service them.Architecture26To a striking degree, modern interpretation of this play has been conditioned by assumptions concerning the architecture and early development history of the Covent Garden estate. Literary scholars have seen the architectural history through the lens of assumptions concerning the political and religious stances of the principal figures in the development of the estate, particularly Francis Russell, the 4th earl of Bedford (1587-1641; succeeded to the earldom in title 1627, but de facto in charge of the estate from 1619). These assumptions turn out to be highly questionable, for the reasons below.27To begin, we must engage with what can be reliably discerned concerning Bedford’s political and religious affiliations and the detailed history of his Covent Garden development. In doing so we are fortunate to have the benefit of the recent summary life of Bedford by Conrad Russell in the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography;n9906 of recent research by R. Malcolm Smuts and particularly of the architectural historian Dianne Duggan; and, through them, of access to newly-discovered documents at Woburn (the Duke of Bedford) and Alnwick (the Duke of Northumberland).n9907 These documents change the hitherto accepted account and clarify much about the place in which Brome’s play is set.Covent Garden28As the population of London grew rapidly in the early modern period, buildings steadily filled in the hitherto horticultural and agricultural area between the city walls and the royal centres of Whitehall, St James, and Westminster to the west. From 1600, if not before, houses were constructed in the vicinity of what became the Covent Garden neighbourhood, often without or with dubious licencing. James I had issued a proclamation banning unlicenced building outside the walls in 1610; this was reissued by his son Charles I in 1625, with the Surveyor of the King’s Works, Inigo Jones, appointed to head the Commission on Buildings which had been established in 1618. There had been some building on the Russell family’s London estate in the time of the 3rd earl of Bedford, and this no doubt continued sporadically during the early part of his cousin’s inheritance. This earlier construction on questionable authority proved a persistent problem for the 4th earl as did quality control of building and development on all the Russell land.29Some time in 1629 the earl of Bedford was approached by William Laud, who had become bishop of London in 1627, and Dr Munford, the incumbent of St Martin-in-the-Fields, with a view to constructing a new church on the undeveloped part of Bedford’s Covent Garden estate. Laud and Munford were responding to overcrowding, by as many as 2000 parishioners, in the existing church, caused by rapid population increases in the area (that unlicenced building). Bedford, rather than simply cede the land for a ‘chapel of ease’, recognized his bargaining power and offered to contribute £2,000 to the construction of the church and its necessary appurtenances, including the churchyard, in return for which he petitioned for a licence to build a new residential development on his estate, in full conformity with the king’s proclamations on suitable buildings:And in respecte therof hee hath humblie besought us for our leave and licence to build the residue of the said field called Covent garden with uniforme houses and buildings according to the forme and proporcõn in our said proclamacõn expressed. (Duggan, ‘London the Ring’, p. 143)30We should note that he says ‘residue’: much of the land was already built on. The development in general was approved and licenced by the king. In addition, the king, keen to pursue his aim of creating fine and imposing architecture in his capital , especially so close to the royal quarter, took control of the plans by ordering that his Surveyor, Inigo Jones, was to be responsible for the design of the church and the development of the estate as a whole. Jones was charged with enforcing the terms of the proclamations on new building in London:in the said buildinge the plattforme [is to be] contrived by the surveyor of our works and presented unto us to be observed as farre forth as maybe. (Duggan, ‘London the Ring’, p. 143)31Not only was Jones involved from the outset as the king’s agent, but -- according to Bedford -- Charles himself took an active personal interest in the project. Bedford, who no doubt had an interest in stressing royal approbation, in a later document defended himself from charges of contravening the planning and building licence:n9908before the building was upon this licence the plot of it was shewd to his majesties view, and his majestie was gratiously pleased to view also the place in his own person attended by divers lords commissioners for buildings whereupon he so altered the plot of the buildings that were to be erected that the Earle was by that alteration (in regard to the church, the piatzo or [other structures] which by that alteration he was to build) put to 6000li more charges than otherwise … (Duggan, ‘London the Ring’, 143)32Literary scholars have assumed that the earl of Bedford developed his Covent Garden estate in the face of official disapproval of new building in Londonn9909 and that his persistence in the development was almost a challenge to the king.n9910 Though the development ran quickly into legal problems to do with failure to build to agreed specifications, loss of design control resulting from excessive subletting and subdivision, and inadequate infrastructure to manage water supply and sewerage, it seems clear that the Covent Garden project went ahead with full royal permission, approval, and involvement, and that its origin lay in Laud’s initiative, not in opposition to the king’s principal ecclesiastical minister.33The myth of the earl’s oppositionist project has been sustained by assertions that he was a puritann9911 and, had he lived, destined to be one of those confronting the king during the civil wars. The earl has been seen as being at odds with the king’s religious policies and in particular with Bishop and ultimately Archbishop, William Laud; Laud was translated to Canterbury in 1633.n9912 The construction of St Paul’s Church in the Piazza has been seen as opposed by Laud and the incumbent of St Martin-in-the-Fields; its design in an ‘uncompromisingly primitivist style encoded a militant Protestant ideology’.n9913 The Tuscan order used is seen as a trenchant assertion of allegiance to a native and primitive Christianity, deliberately distant from the aesthetic approved by Laud for ecclesiastical buildings (Butler, Theatre and Crisis, pp. 147-8).n9914 As so often, the stark contrasts beloved of modern scholars are misleading and misrepresent a far more complex reality.34We should begin with assumptions concerning the earl of Bedford’s religious and political positions. Conrad Russell first summarizes the limited evidence for Russell’s religious affiliations and then provides an estimation of his position in the spectrum of opinion at the beginning of the 1630s. First, ‘There is no evidence in the parliamentary record of the 1620s to indicate Bedford’s attitude on questions of religion’. Such evidence as there is from his extensive commonplace books shows, first, that Bedford was an avid and eclectic reader of religious material and that this eclecticism is reflected in his patronage and friendships; he seems to have set the limit only at Roman Catholics. Conrad Russell concludes thatThe clergyman whose private conversation seems to figure most largely in his commonplace books is John Williams, bishop of Lincoln, lord keeper to King James. Perhaps it is the scholarly ecumenism of a good Jacobean which comes nearest to Bedford’s ecclesiastical position. … [T]he overwhelming bulk of his reading seems to be in good Jacobean Calvinist conformist episcopalians such as Joseph Hall, John Davenant, George Carleton, and Robert Sanderson. It is hard to resist the impression that this is the ecclesiastical school with which Bedford felt most at home, even if his tolerance extended outwards on both sides of it.35Ultimately, ‘Bedford was a Calvinist episcopalian with no great love for nonconformity’. And this somewhat old-fashioned, irenicist stance is unsurprisingly mirrored in his political position: ‘One of Russell’s peculiarities, especially when set beside others who ranked as parliamentary leaders in 1640, is the politically and theologically eclectic character of his social circle’. Interpreting an entry in Bedford’s parliamentary journal of 1628, Conrad Russell states thatThis does as much as anything to indicate Bedford’s position in the late 1620s. He wanted to get back to the position which had been normal in 1610, that the scope of the prerogative was bounded by law. It represents a desire that the king’s power should be under control and not arbitrary, rather than one that it should be reduced.36Bedford was an adherent of the Calvinist episcopalian church that had emerged under Elizabeth and James and of the associated constitutional arrangements by which the king ruled with the benefit of good counsel provided by his privy council, the peers, and by parliaments called when necessary: ‘His constitutional thinking is focused, not on changing the balance between institutions, but on securing good counsel to the king’. Bedford maintained friendships across the political spectrum (he was ‘probably the only man who could come to the Long Parliament in 1640 claiming the personal friendship of both Pym and Laud’).37We can now clear many misconceptions away. Covent Garden was owned by the earl of Bedford and he surely wished to develop his estate for financial gain. Though the king had no financial stake and could expect no direct monetary benefit, his fingerprints are literally all over the plans, at least according to Bedford. The king insisted that his Surveyor, Inigo Jones, should be the principal architect. Charles made site visits early in the process and himself altered the plans on the spot. The parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields had petitioned for the construction of a ‘chapel of ease’ to relieve overcrowding caused by the area’s growth in population before the Covent Garden development began; and Dr Munford, the incumbent, together with William Laud, at that time bishop of London, was consulted on the construction of St Paul’s. (Anchoring a new residential neighbourhood with a prominent church corresponds directly with modern development practice in the United States.) Their later complaint seems to be financial, to do with the allocation of tithes; and the motives for the later alteration of the interior to remove the altar from the west to the east end remain uncertain. The church’s exterior style -- often asserted to be native and primitive, but withal Venetian and therefore possibly by implication republican -- far from encoding ideological opposition to the king (a strange thing for the king’s Surveyor to do, one would think, and if true unique in Inigo Jones’s work), is Italianate, foreign, sophisticated, and in fact another exercise in the style Jones was using contemporaneously for royal buildings at St James’s and Whitehall palaces a few hundred yards away. Bedford was no puritan but a conservative supporter of the via media of the English church. He was no Arminian but neither was he an independent or dissenter.38The earl of Bedford did get into trouble and was prosecuted in relation to the development of his estate, but this was for practical reasons that are readily recognizable in disputes concerning new developments throughout history, down to the present time. First, he and his predecessor were charged with having commenced or permitted building on parts of the Russell estate before receiving the royal licence. Second, Bedford was accused of not following the design specifications imposed by or agreed with the Surveyor. Third, the Covent Garden development had gone ahead without sufficient infrastructure, particularly in the provision of fresh water and the management of waste, with the result that clean water supply to established areas was disrupted, the sewer system was overwhelmed, and the river Thames polluted. Bedford claimed to have spent lavishly attempting to correct these problems, but he pointed out that beyond construction of the first three model houses in the Piazza he had no direct control over building design or quality. Rectifying infrastructure inadequacies after the fact is notoriously expensive and difficult; Bedford encountered a stubborn property owner between Covent Garden and the river, making the correction of the sewer problem particularly intractable.39Using the building history of the Covent Garden location to interpret the play as an intervention in intense ideological conflicts in high politics, therefore, is skating on very thin ice. Bedford does not fit the neat pigeonholes of political opposition beloved of New Historicists; the Covent Garden development was driven by commercial opportunities that forged an alliance between the earl, the ecclesiastical authorities, and the crown, not by ideological opposition; the building of St Paul’s Church and its chosen architectural style came out of the ecclesiastical and royal establishment rather than in defiance of either. The play cannot, in these terms anyway, be seen as oppositional.40So with this out of the way, we can look afresh and ask what its concerns seem to be and how these fit our growing understanding of Covent Garden as a hugely interesting, energetic, and unpredictable place as it grows before the eyes of an audience in the early 1630s. What emerges is that the play is fascinated by and plays with the turbulent, protean, ungovernable nature of modern urban life. The older figures in the play, particularly Crosswill and Rooksbill, and all the actual representatives of authority in 1630s London represented in the play by that aspiring magistrate Cockbrain, want to profit financially and in status from vigorous development, yet they also want to do it on their own terms: to control the energies of the young and the new, promote politeness, and exclude vulgarity and immorality. All are shown to be incapable of so doing in the play, a shrewd commentary on the contemporary tussle over the Covent Garden district. Weeding Covent Garden as a neighbourhood turns out to be a Sisyphean task in the actual life of London. In the play, however, we see a tolerant confidence that these alarming modern energies can be trusted in the end to construct an acceptable, moral society, but only when the distortions caused by externally imposed regulation are removed. Children, left to their own devices and exercising their own judgements, marry appropriately and avoid social catastrophe; and prostitution is exiled to the margins of the city. Crosswill, whose soliloquy introducing the final act [CG 5.1.speech1008] gives him unique status and authority, is exhilarated by the energy of the urban environment, which he associates with the carefree revelry of his own youth. He recognizes as folly, almost a form of madness, Cockbrain’s assumption that he can control that energy by regulation; and he challenges and ridicules (‘Repudding’) almost everything Cockbrain assumes and asserts about his role in the new world depicted in the play:he is upon a point of discovery in a most excellent project for the weeding of this Garden? What garden? What project? A project he says here for the good of the republic, Repudding. This fellow has instead of brains, a cobweb in his noddle, with little straws, feathers, and wings of dead butterflies hanging in it, that having motion by his airy fancy, there dance and keep a racket; 'tis to teach women silence, or some such foolish impossibility. He is ambitious to be called into authority by notice taken of some special service he is able to do the State aforehand. But what great service he is able to do it, or which way to undertake it, falls not in the reach of my imagination .Charles I’s “personal rule”41The fact that authority is represented by the play’s fathers has led several scholars to discern in The Weeding of Covent Garden a satire, even an allegory, of the autocratic tendencies of Charles I’s government and in particular its manifestation in the eleven year ‘Personal Rule’, the period from 1629 to 1640 when the king contrived to rule without calling a parliament. (With worrying circularity, this view is reinforced by the now-exploded assumption that the development of Covent Garden by the earl of Bedford was, in some ways, a challenge to absolutism; in turn, the assumed reflection on the Personal Rule becomes evidence for the interpretation of the estate’s development as a challenge to royal authority.) The Weeding of Covent Garden thus becomes an oppositionist play set in an oppositionist development created by an oppositionist aristocrat. A substantial proportion of twenty-first century scholars are happy to find such opposition in early modern literature; but as we have already seen, there are problems with this strategy for framing interpretation of the play. Some scholars acknowledge the absence of substantial internal evidence for this type of interpretation, but nonetheless are reluctant to let go such choice fruit. R.J. Kaufmann begins with ‘caution’ but then throws it to the winds:Caution is required because explicit references and topical satire cannot be summoned for confirmation. But it is apparent to any student of the reign of Charles I and particularly of that stretch known as the “personal reign” (1629-40) leading up to the Civil War that the state suffered from increasing paternalism. … Without explicit personal references to Laud, Brome here broaches in humorous terms the fact that one does not need to approve of Puritanism -- far from it -- to recognize that the troublesome, stubborn excesses of the puritans might well be a reaction against excessive paternal intervention. Brome seems to be arguing that an inflexible and unintelligently restrictive policy on the part of the paternal state can induce a desperate and equally inflexible response. History was certainly to bear him out. It was stated at the beginning of this book that the plays present, in consciously or unconsciously disguised form, the primary social preoccupations of the age …. This is not the same thing as direct political propagandizing or detailed topical satire. (pp. 82-83)42This is so hedged about with qualifications that it is hard to argue against, but we should keep in sight the key point: ‘explicit references and topical satire cannot be summoned for confirmation’. Julie Sanders deploys the trope of tentativeness in the same context: ‘Since the King regularly depicted himself as the father of the nation, it is just possible that this critique of family relations and in particular of the overweening patriarchs in the plays of Brome and others might be a coded reference to the monarchy’.n991543In much commentary, each of the three fathers turns out to be a representative of the king, despite their obvious differences from and disagreements with each other:n9916 Crosswill, the gentry figure perversely disobeying Charles’s proclamation on remaining in place in rural and provincial society; Cockbrain, a citizen of this expanding London, if not of the traditional city, aspiring to rise in its magistracy; and Rooksbill, the new man of capital and property speculation, with no recognizable role in government and with no appearance of wanting one, but hoping to marry his daughter to a scion of the traditional landed elite. That each or any of these in some way figures Charles seems a stretch. One can see how interpretation gets distorted by the desire to make the play ‘fit’ in one critic’s assertion that Rooksbill, who churlishly refuses to think of anything but his financial returns when contemplating Covent Garden, and is without a hint of interest in design or architectural beauty, is ‘clearly a stage version of Jones’.n9917 Were in not that the association with Jones, and thus with the autocratic monarch, is necessary for a pre-conceived argument, no-one would ever make this connection. Cockbrain tries, through wafer-thin use of standard architectural jargon, to distract Rooksbill from the lack of return on his investment; but neither character figures Jones or his master.44It may be wise to heed Vic Gatrell’s cautions when interpreting eighteenth-century satirical prints. First, he surveys the accounts of print-historians who claim for those satires a radical political and moral agenda, choosing a leading proponent and scholar:[Diana Donald] states several times that the prints of the 1790s were ‘anti-aristocratic’, ‘radical’, or ‘subversive’ … and then announces her ‘unmistakable sense’ that in the satires and elsewhere ‘for the first time, the aristocracy as a caste was under concerted attack’.n991845But his review of the evidence suggests otherwise: ‘Look more closely at the repertoire, and “radicalism” is hard to find. … To constitution and hierarchy the printshops were steadfastly loyal’ (p. 143). The prints take exuberant pleasure in the follies and excesses of members of the aristocracy, but the target is folly and excess, not aristocracy itself. Brome’s satire in The Weeding of Covent Garden seems to be concerned with gentry newly come to town (Crosswill), aspirational magistrates (Cockbrain), and cultureless money-men (Rooksbill). None of these is a likely figuration of Charles I. Brome’s play, like Crosswill himself, seems to expose morally questionable behaviour but also take delight in its energy. Aptly, Gatrell says of his printmakers, ‘if … you were a Covent Garden engraver, … louche pleasures were well worth celebrating, and a fig for the moralists and radicals’ (p. 154).46The recently rewritten architectural history of Covent Garden removes much of the foundation for a reading of The Weeding of Covent Garden as an oppositional play directly and knowingly involved in criticism of and resistance to a monarch acting in contravention of English constitutional arrangements.n9919 Even without the benefit of this recently-published material, Matthew Steggle rightly warns us not to subscribe too readily to readings of the play in terms of high politics, readings that perhaps appeal to us more than to contemporaries, given our inevitably limited knowledge of the period (which means we lose many of the details and subtleties), the benefit of hindsight from our knowledge of the Civil Wars to come, and our own modern political and ideological concerns. Similarly, the prominence to contemporaries of social and political crises may have been less than we, especially literary historians, like to think. Valerie Pearl reminds us that recent histories of London, ‘shaped partly by sociological theories and by what has been called the philosophy of “doom and gloom”’ has over-emphasized ‘crisis, conflict and social polarization’.n9920 Ian W. Archer summarizes the tensions between City and monarchy throughout the early modern period; but his list of crises reminds us that Brome’s play was written and first performed during a five-year lull between two major confrontations, that over the collection of tonnage and poundage in 1628-9 and that over ship money in 1635.n992147As said above, most who interpret the play in terms of high politics associate it with opposition to the king’s ‘Personal Rule’, the eleven year period in which Charles I did not call a parliament: the authoritarianism of the fathers in the play is associated with the king’s dangerous assertion of his right to rule alone and unimpeded by those traditionally participating in the direction of the state through consultation in parliament.n992248With hindsight, we know that the Personal Rule did create resentment and that this was surely one of the grievances that fuelled antagonism to the king in the 1640s. But to interpret Brome’s play we have to avoid reading backwards from that decade and beyond. When the play was written and first performed, no-one, with the possible exception of the king himself, knew that the Personal Rule would last eleven years, and The Weeding of Covent Garden was not a response to ‘a decade of non-parliamentary rule’, as one critic writes.n9923 The last parliament had sat in 1629; a gap of two to four years between parliaments was in no way unusual. Indeed, Charles’s record in the later 1620s - five parliaments in four years - was extraordinary, and worryingly so: his father had ruled for 10 years without calling a parliament, and no-one wrote plays criticizing him for it. Personal Rule was, if anything, the norm. Far from creating unease, for many subjects and commentators there was much that was admirable about a mode of ruling that produced the quiet and prosperity of the early 1630s (Butler, Theatre and Crisis, p. 13). But, in any case, Brome cannot have been commenting on and responding to the eleven-year Personal Rule because it had not happened yet. In addition, Captain Driblow’s comment that members of the Order of the Blade and the Battoon must ‘be ever at deadly defiance with all such people, as protections are directed to in Parliament’ [CG 3.1.speech437], seems to assume parliaments are unproblematic and in the present.The imaging of a society in flux49None of this means that Brome’s first audiences definitely did not reflect on their political experiences in the context of this play; what I have questioned is the evidence and basis for reading the play as certainly and specifically a representation, allegorical or otherwise, of high politics.50If The Weeding of Covent Garden is not predominantly about high politics, is not an allegory of Charles I’s ambitions to autocracy, paternalism, and the dangers of the Personal Rule, what are its concerns? They are very much what appears to the eye: there is no need to seek the allos, for the play’s concerns are literal, powerful, and urgent. Brome displays a society in the throes of transformation, in which old structures, assumptions, and hierarchies are melting away; in which traditional authority is faced with new imperatives which make themselves bluntly and impatiently felt; in which no-one knows what will emerge once this convulsion ends, and indeed no-one knows whether or not it will end. The play focuses on a narrow but fascinating stratum in society, setting its characters down in a locale that is the physical embodiment of novelty, indeterminacy, constructedness, and the unfinished. Unlike a comedy set in a court or in the country, which can tend to the representation of a certain timelessness in relationships, the urban setting of The Weeding of Covent Garden enables Brome to represent an intensely contemporary society in which relationships are ever changing; the questions concerning the relationships between characters and groups are immediate, urgent, and pressing.‘Suppliers’, ‘service providers’, and servants; families, friends, households, marriages, and ‘commercial sex workers’51The heading to this section contains deliberately anachronistic vocabulary; Brome certainly never calls a whore a ‘commercial sex worker’. The anachronism is an attempt to emphasize the novelty of the commercial and consumer society represented as burgeoning in the ambiguous territory of Covent Garden and the divide between that and the traditional social organizations of both non-metropolitan England and the tightly, but differently regulated City of London.52A good starting-point is the ‘lower orders’: those who supply goods and services of various kinds and - very different - servants. The play’s milieu is the new consumer society of Covent Garden and London’s western developments in general, as distinct from both the residual feudalism of landed wealth, inherited position, and traditional deference, and the legislated formality of the structures of wards, guilds, aldermen, and livery companies within the City. Though the lower orders are all grouped together in the list of characters, beneath those of higher social station (those who are served, have leisure, or do not labour physically), there are in fact significant differences between them.53The principal low-status character is Belt, Crosswill’s servant whom he has brought with him from the country. Belt’s name says it all: his master beats him whenever he feels like it , which is on most occasions, and, though he looks after himself by manipulating both his master and his master’s son Mihil, Belt shows no sign of rejecting this treatment or conceiving of himself as able to get a new master or a new situation. No Caliban he, there is nothing subversive about his playing the system to his own, marginal advantage; instead, such behaviour renders him complicit and tends to reinforce the hierarchy in which he comfortably figures. Crosswill and Belt’s relationship is one of traditional service, even servitude, in which - for Belt at least - change is inconceivable.54But in town relationships are less between master and servant and more between customer and supplier. There is no servitude here, but goods and services traded between individuals. Hierarchy still exists to some degree, but it is less pronounced and less certain: a witty waiter can joke with a gentleman’s son, and both will be at ease with that. Far from taking a beating, the Tailor and Shoemaker doggedly stand their ground and repossess their wares when Mihil, gentry scion though he may be, cannot pay [CG 2.1.speech216]. Interestingly, Mihil is backed up by his Laundress, a personal servant of the old school, or rather of the old Inns of Court, guarded and gated enclaves of traditional social organization in the heart of the metamorphic city. In the taverns, no-one attends much to Crosswill’s rants or to the young blades’ posturing unless there is money to be made through a service or commodity provided. And the tavern staff overcharge their ‘superiors’ boldly and without compunction. The young men’s rhetorical extravagances are misunderstood because those paid to provide them with food and drink hear only literal meanings: is this a request for more of a particular commodity [CG 3.1.speech529]? Appeals to gentility and honour cut no ice when cash is at stake; in the clearest such moment, Clotpoll offers his sword as security for a debt, but the tavern staff laugh at the idea that such a flimsy prop has real value [CG 3.1.speech617]. They take instead a cloak, saleable and made of material that can be readily turned into money.55The play’s locations reinforce the point. The only person who comes close to owning his accommodation in the play is Rooksbill, the financier and speculator (and we might even wonder how great his own equity investment is, how ‘leveraged’ the construction project; he is probably a leaseholder for the land, not a freeholder); every other interior we see or are asked to imagine is rented (Dorcas’s new business premises as an aspiring courtesan; Mihil’s Inns of Court lodgings; the accommodation Crosswill is soon to take possession of), or for hire (the tavern rooms). Instead of a sense of stability and permanence, the play’s locations communicate temporariness and openness to change. To use the dichotomy Ben Jonson celebrates at the end of To Penshurst,n9924 there is no sense that anyone ‘dwells’ in Covent Garden (as opposed to occupying its spaces temporarily). Jonson celebrated ironically the rootedness of the absent Sidneys in To Penshurst;n9925 without irony, Brome makes clear that his Covent Garden residents are just passing through.56The Paris and Goat Taverns are, as a result, key and expressive locations in the play, epitomizing the idea of urban space as being to hire, conviviality and sociability as purchasable, at least in terms of the raw materials of food, drink, and entertainment. Community and sociability in the tavern are very different from that of the traditional household, as described by Phil Withington:it [sic] is worth clarifying what ‘household’ meant in this instance. A starting point is Sir Thomas Smith’s notion of the kind of ‘house’ upon which commonwealths were ideally built. This he defined as ‘the man, the woman, their children, their servants bond and free, their cattle, their household stuff, and all other things, which are reckoned in their possession, so long as all these remain together in one’ [De Republica Anglorum, 13]. This framing of the household as a place of co-residence under the authority of a head or heads has been shown by Naomi Tadmor to remain predominant well into the eighteenth century.n992657Predominant outside London, but emphatically not in Covent Garden. Crosswill’s non-London household includes not only his children but also his niece (until she ran away in disgrace, having been seduced, significantly, by an unscrupulous visitor from the metropolis - its mores are beginning to reach out to the provinces) and his servant Belt. It has the traditional form of a larger unit of people dependent on and serving each other, with different degrees of blood relation or none, and a visible and unquestioned hierarchy. Strikingly, neither of the other families we see or hear of has any hint of this character: we learn nothing of Cockbrain’s domestic arrangements, but in Rooksbill’s household his daughter Lucy takes the part of hostess, welcoming Katherine and her father to ‘my father’s house’ [CG 3.2.speech620]. Rooksbill has no servants that we hear of. In these London establishments, the family seems already more nuclear. Crosswill sneers at Rooksbill by likening the latter’s house to an inn but, whether he really understands it or not, he has hit upon a real contrast between the traditional family and household world Crosswill has just abandoned and the new urban world he is entering. In town, a master becomes a customer. Household services are monetized, household relations imply trade and contract, not immutable authority and subservience.58Throughout the play there is a sense that relationships are predominantly instrumental and provisional. When Katherine Crosswill and Lucy Rooksbill seize a moment alone for private conversation, their exchange has the quality of a diplomatic negotiation on which much hangs: Katherine seeks to bind Lucy by repeatedly calling her ‘sister’ and by drawing attention to that quite explicitly: ‘especially for your society’s sake, sweet sister. Indeed I’ll call you sister always’ [CG 3.2.speech621]. There is little sense of deep emotional kinship between the principal young men of the play, Mihil, Anthony, and Nick. Nick blackmails Mihil and, in return, Mihil uses his new status in the Rooksbill family to compel Nick into an unwanted (and surely disastrous) marriage to Dorcas. Perhaps the best example is Crosswill himself. He repeatedly expresses contempt for Rooksbill, the City money man (‘this mechanic fellow’ [CG 5.2.speech1022]), yet when he determines that it would be in his interest for his son Mihil to marry Rooksbill’s daughter, he has no hesitation in labeling the father his friend: ‘she’s a friend’s daughter of mine’ [CG 5.2.speech1061]. ‘Friendship’ seems dominated by networks of interest, as appears in Crosswill’s account of Cockbrian:This honest Cockbrain, that has always been a constant friend to you, and officious in many good ways, and is a gentleman, not only of good descent and estate, but of a good disposition. [CG 5.1.speech1008]59The social self of Covent Garden is situational and protean, constantly in a state of becoming, shaped by needs and services, opportunities, favours, obligations, and alliances. Even Belt, the rather traditional servant figure up from the country, modifies his allegiances according to shifting advantage, transmitting information to Crosswill or his sons depending on where he sees his advantage: ‘You never knew an old servingman treacherous to his young master. What? To the hopes o’th’ house? You will be heir, that’s questionless’ [CG 2.1.speech310]. The loyalty of the old retainer is entirely determined by his perception of advantage.60Fiction tends to emphasise - and idealise - intimate relationships, and this is particularly so in the post-Romantic world. The view of social bonds as ‘instrumental’ may therefore seem harsh. But Brome’s London plays are splendidly clear-sighted in presenting without condemnation new urban social structures as requiring negotiations and alliances; these are constantly being remade. In the country Crosswill had had a predetermined network of relationships, the product of long-established structures of hierarchy and obligation. But in the city new networks must be created, and created every day: intimacy and interest map on to each other. The intersecting lives of Crosswill, Cockbrain, and Rooksbill in the play’s first scene initiate this theme, with Cockbrain the nexus: friend, that is agent, of both Rooksbill and Crosswill.61Money - who has it, what it can buy, and the details of how and when it is exchanged - is ever-present behind the events of the play: characters talk about it, count it, debate its purchasing power. Crosswill comes to town from a position of unquestioned authority in the country, based on his land ownership and gentry status; but in London he finds himself sparring with Rooksbill, a money-man with no claims to special position or interest in the trappings of status (Crosswill is astonished that Rooksbill dresses so unfashionably, despite his wealth). Rooksbill tends to be disconcertingly direct and crude in asserting what he can do with cash. He repeatedly antagonizes Crosswill by his use of the possessive: any issue of the marriage between his daughter Lucy and Crosswill’s son Mihil will be ‘his’ grandchildren as much as Crosswill’s, a fact the latter is determined not to recognize; and he bluntly says that, however many the grandchildren be, he has money enough to set them all up for life [CG 5.2.speech1078]. Rooksbill sees no reason to include Crosswill and his assets in his calculations: wealth derived from commerce and investment gives him the confidence to buy the gentry son (Mihil, without profession or income, is a luxury item) for his citizen daughter. Unthinkingly, he marginalizes the gentry father as irrelevant: it would be an advantage if Crosswill’s elder son died, so that Mihil would be sole heir, but that is not important enough to be an obstacle to his purchasing a bit of blue blood. Crosswill has to hold his nose to ward off the stench of novelty; but it scarcely crosses Rooksbill’s mind that there might be objections to the marriage on grounds of class or caste. In his world, money trumps all.62Diana O’Hara writes of exceptional spaces and their relation to dominant community culture in sixteenth-century England, drawing particular attention to the role of these spaces in courtship and the negotiations of sexuality:Tavern, alehouse, market and fair may be seen to represent, in different ways, social experience beyond the conventional, ideologically sound, moral regulation of the community. They possess a distinct liminality, inhabiting a domain which had its own rules and providing the opportunity for licensed and unlicensed transgression. Both liminality and transgression were crucial in the negotiation of courtship and in the pursuit of personal relations.n992763By the seventeenth century, taverns in Covent Garden, as represented in Brome’s play, have ceased to be exceptional; instead, they are the epitome of the new society being created.n9928 In this sense, all this London and all life lived there are liminal; what had been at the margins, here was central. Paradoxically, fixity and stability are more transgressive than motion and change. Some in the play (Cockbrain in particular) see this as a threat and seek to regulate and constrain; but others respond to Covent Garden’s lively pulse, hoping that new and valid forms of social organization may emerge from the excitement. Tavern culture - noisy and violent - communicates a sense of threat, certainly, but taverns are also clearly important as places where communitas and sociability are performed and practiced, bringing together individuals and groups and banishing the sense of society as intractably hierarchical and atomized into solitary actors who each know their unique places. Covent Garden, with its taverns but also, on a larger scale, its abnormal ownership and rental patterns, seems to be a kind of laboratory for this brave new world.64And, surprisingly, benign outcomes are achieved without regulation, constraint, or the assistance of paternal authority figures; rather, it is despite the fathers’ misguided efforts to contain the energies of youthful urban life that the young people navigate their way to the recognizably comedic ending of marriage. But this is marriage tentatively decoupled from society’s other forms of order and regulation. Strikingly, the three weddings take place offstage - Brome eschews the set-piece, and almost taunts the audience by making these resolutions anti-climactic, even throw-away.n9929 The weddings are improvised and take place, not in church, but an adjacent - any adjacent - room, in a house or a tavern. There are no surrounding and supporting structures of ecclesiastical architecture, sacred space, ritual, liturgy, or formal clothing, nothing that either we or Brome’s contemporaries would think typical of such events: Crosswill commands the Parson simply to say the bits of the marriage service that he can remember, since there is not even a book available.65This de-emphasis on weddings as social rituals and as emblematic of traditional order does not mean that marriage is unimportant in The Weeding of Covent Garden; rather, the play is representing and commenting on another, closely-connected social change. The Weeding of Covent Garden is a play structured around the marriage choices of members of three families. Two matches are made on the basis of the participants’ affectional preference and to some degree despite paternal opposition. In the third case the match is forced by the woman’s cousin, who in effect blackmails the man who had previously seduced her, to make her an “honest woman” (there’s little sense that this marriage will survive).66Interpreting these marriage plots means stepping into the vigorous debate among social historians concerning the nature of courtship and marriage contracts in early modern England. The key publication in this area is Lawrence Stone’s The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977), which has provoked a great deal of subsequent research on the subject. Stone’s thesis is that in the period he selected there was a shift from marriages in which the partners were chosen by parents, families, and the wider community for largely non-romantic reasons towards marriages in which personal preference assumed a much greater prominence (Stone does not suggest that the social and familial criteria cease to be important). For Alan Macfarlane, Stone’s pattern is indicative of the growth of individualism in English culture (The Origins of English Individualism: The Family, Property and Social Transition [Oxford: Blackwell, 1978], among other works). More recent studies have resulted in nuanced accounts that recognize the complexity and variety of practices witnessed in the surviving evidence, seeing differences resulting from social class and caste, regional location, family circumstances, religious affiliation, and many other causes (for instance, Diana O’Hara, Courtship and Constraint). Even when personal preference looms larger, these studies reveal that marriage in this period is inextricably social, in that the choices couples made were profoundly intertwined with their connections and other relationships.67How applicable to a work of fiction is this social history? As always recognized, romantic comedy over-emphasizes affectional motives for marriage. Yet The Weeding of Covent Garden, despite the influence of the traditions of romantic comedy on the Elizabethan and Stuart stage, is a play with a keen eye on real social phenomena. It is striking that there are no elopements: neither of the principal couples is prepared to opt for marriage without manoeuvering the relevant father or fathers into acceptance, even gratitude. In the all-important case of Crosswill, this involves not just accepting the marriage but seeking to shed the constraining judgemental mindset that characterizes all his social and familial relations.68It is worth being precise about the various characters’ social station. At the top and probably wealthiest is the family of Master Crosswill, with his two sons Gabriel and Mihil and his daughter Katherine. They come from the country gentry, but significantly Crosswill has just sold all his land and moved to town. He has not, however, lost his sense of higher social rank, and that clearly affects his attitudes as a parent directing his children’s marriage choices. Equally definable is Master Cockbrain, who aspires to be part of the urban magistracy (in the urban county of Middlesex). He is Crosswill’s old friend, but he is also closer to being a worthy citizen than a member of the traditional gentry. However, he and Crosswill have both objected to the marriage of Crosswill’s daughter Katherine and Cockbrain’s son Anthony. Why did Cockbrain so object? The play offers no reason.69The third father is Master Rooksbill, who appears simply to be a capitalist, a man with serious investments in the residential property business. He evinces no interest in urban magistracy, but he does immediately see Crosswill’s two sons as potential marriage partners for his daughter Lucy, means to effect his family’s rise in the social hierarchy. He is clearly impressed by their apparent docility and demure conduct; but his enthusiasm is surely fired more by their status as Crosswill’s sons. Crosswill, by contrast, rears back at the thought that even his younger son should ally with a child of a mere financier or landlord, however wealthy.70The process of getting Mihil married to Lucy and Katherine married to Anthony dominates what passes for a plot in The Weeding of Covent Garden. In both cases, the fathers are brought to agree to matches that they have resisted in the past or in the course of the play. These matches are based on the children’s own choices and their choices are based on emotion, not property. It should be noted, however, that all three families are financially stable and, in money terms, none of the matches takes anyone outside the realm of affluence. The problems seem to be all class and caste driven.71Lawrence Stone has argued that it is precisely in the early seventeenth century that an awkward and difficult transition in terms of attitudes to marriage and personal autonomy was being experienced by members of this class, between the aristocracy and the unpropertied lower classes. Having described the experience of Simonds D’Ewes, Stone comments,This story thus perfectly illustrates the transitional pattern of marriage among the early seventeenth-century landed classes as they moved uneasily between one set of values based on kin interest and marriage arranged by others with a view to financial advantage, and another set based on allowing children a right of veto in order to provide a better chance of marital harmony. The result was an awkward interplay of forces, which in this particular case turned out to everyone’s satisfaction.n993072The spectrum of possible responses has at one extreme the harsh, commoditarian views of Richard Allestree, whose assertion that children are property alone seems to correspond to Rooksbill’s attitude (‘The same affection governs her, she is not mine else’ [CG 2.2.speech368]) and to be that from which Crosswill is making an uncertain and inconsistent retreat:Children are so much the goods, the possessions of their parent, that they cannot, without a kind of theft, give away themselves without the allowance of those that have a right in them.n993173But this is also the period in which Dudley North, in A Forest of Varieties (1645) can make a case for what Stone calls ‘the extreme radical position’ of allowing children free choice in matters of marriage (Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800, p. 274):Marriage is a holy thing. I wish Gods institution were rightly understood, and observed therein, in the understanding, in the pressing, in the course, in the dissolution: certainly there can bee nothing more unchristian, then for man and woman to come together, and live together, as ordinarily they doe; and possibly a great part of the world might at this day have been Christian, more then is, if man had not cast more constraint and restraint upon it then God.
I am perswaded, no Treatise could prove more Christian and usefull, then if some able man would exhort people in generall, not to rush into marriage so rashly and corruptly, Parents to leave their Children full freedome with their consent in so important a case, and Princes to take into further consideration that Norman Gottish Law, which occasions precipitate, unsutable, and immature Mariages, and proves the ruine of infinite good Families. [A Forest of Varieties, pp. 140-141, dated “November 28. 1637”]
74Brome has seized on the correspondence between the undefined and changeful state of the new Covent Garden development, outside the regulation of both City and Court, and the equally undefined brave new world of marriage and family, in which old structures of authority and control are breaking down.75As William Blake was to do 150 years later in his coruscating poetic satire ‘London’, in the Songs of Experience (1793), Brome makes prostitution central to his marriage play, seeing it as the alluring but distorted twin of societally sanctioned sexuality.n9932 The topic of prostitution inevitably also raises the question of the roles and status of women in the play.76Brome’s oeuvre is in no way short of strong and powerful female characters, queens and concubines. But The Weeding of Covent Garden is strikingly different. Crosswill’s and Rooksbill’s daughters, Katherine and Lucy, are painfully powerless in the face of male control over their destinies. Katherine’s only response to her father’s dictatorial veto of her choice of husband is a radical and aggressive passivity: denied autonomy in this most personal area, she refuses to accept responsibility in any other. Lucy shows no sign at all of asserting her independence from her father, submitting quietly - almost mutely - to every command and expressing no revulsion as he proposes disposing of her to either of Crosswill’s sons, whom he has barely met. At the centre of the play (Act 3, Scene 2) the two young women talk about their predicament, but this prominence seems only to reinforce the painfulness of their inability to exert control over their own lives. Lucy is buoyed up by her beloved’s confidence that he can trick their fathers into giving their blessings to the match; but she has no idea how this will be done.77Two other women engage in a discussion and nearly a duel, Betty and Francisca (Frank), the young whores (Act 4, Scene 1) . They quarrel over their rights to a Citizen who has just spent the night with them; but Nick diverts their ire by revealing that, far from either of them having potential ownership of the Citizen, he has been playing the age-old male game of asserting his status by telling other males of his sexual conquests and traducing their reputations. The whores get their revenge by physical assault , but that’s a poor recompense for the dismaying revelation that they and their bodies are simply commodities, for sale. Madge, the bawd who has also been employed by Dorcas to manage her own entry into prostitution, is funny, conniving, and at times seems on the brink of being formidable; but in the end she is prepared to play any part, no matter how humiliating, so long as she escapes incarceration in Bridewell [CG 5.1.speech1053]. Studies of early modern prostitution reveal how widows, in particular, combined the roles of bawd and purveyor of food and drink, and one is tempted to see Madge as standing for women who, against the grain, achieved a measure of independence through commercial activity.n9933 But the men in the play repeatedly threaten her with the ease with which she could be destroyed and cast into prison or destitution, or both, or worse. She expresses no sturdy optimism that her independence is permanent.78Dorcas herself might seem to offer a vision of female autonomy and power, especially given her monologue in the first scene, in which she asserts her freedom to exploit her body and her sexuality, and men’s desires, for her own benefit . She plans to be, not a prostitute, but a courtesan. Taken out of context, actors in the Project’s workshops found in this speech a thrilling boldness and confidence. It has some of the same rhetorical directness of ‘Haec Vir’ in the 1620 pamphlet contribution to the debate on effeminacy and the response of some women who both cross-dress and assume the gender characteristics of the free and assertive male:We are as freeborn as Men, have as free election and as free spirits; we are compounded of like parts and may with like liberty make benefit of our Creations.n993479But the act ends with Dorcas drawing a knife and threatening suicide to avoid going through with her plan, and in the intervening scene it has become starkly clear that in prostitution she sells herself in ways both deep and irrecoverable. Rather than being the exploiter, she is emphatically the exploited, by men and even by Madge, who offers to collude with her longtime customers to the destruction of her apparent employer. Dorcas is using the pseudonym Damaris, but Nick (who doesn’t even recognize that he had seduced her before the play began) takes possession by renaming her, insultingly, Dammy; though she discomforts him by playing on his name, there is little doubt that the male with money is in firm control, a point Nick makes by reminding Dorcas and Madge that the building they are in belongs to his father, from whom he is likely to inherit. For the rest of the play Dorcas desperately seeks to escape back into respectability, achieving that in the end, dismayingly, by marriage to Nick, who has to be blackmailed into compliance and who says that, were he not under duress, he would be perfectly happy to see her fall into common prostitution. There is no sense that the marriage will have a function besides re-legitimating Dorcas; one has no confidence that either party is motivated by affection. Needs must. Brome seems intent on making us realize that each of the women needs a deus ex machine in this theatre, and there is no mistaking the gender.80It is important to counterbalance this rather gloomy assessment. Viewed solely as a realistic city comedy satire, there is little relief from the bleakness of Brome’s representation of women’s roles and agency; but leaving it there would miss the warmth and affection of much of the play’s humour and the interweaving of romantic comedy, with all its generic qualities and assertion of redeemability. The Weeding of Covent Garden is a play about lost children who are found, parents and children who begin the play as though permanently alienated from each other and yet who reconcile in the final scenes. Some fathers, most importantly Crosswill, appear to learn and change; some sons abandon the antisocial roles they have adopted in response to their fathers’ refusal to allow them independent decision-making. And Dorcas doesn’t descend into prostitution, but is rather reintegrated into the love of her cousins and uncle, and re-established as a respectable woman. As in Pericles, a young woman on the brink of destruction through prostitution, a ‘fresh whore’, tells a story that enables the re-establishment of harmony and order; as in The Winter’s Tale a chastened father re-establishes connection with his lost children once he faces the destructive irrationality of his past behaviour. Both of Shakespeare’s comedies were being revived around the time of The Weeding of Covent Garden’s composition and first performance, and while Brome nowhere rises to a Shakespearean magic, linguistic or in terms of plot, there is a touching plangency to the scene in which first Mihil and then Gabriel recognize their lost cousin and open emotionally to her. Much of that is achieved by Brome’s supple and subtle shifts between prose and verse.LanguageVerse and prose81By far the majority of The Weeding of Covent Garden is in prose, suiting the mimesis of London speech and conversation. However, Brome’s characters do move into verse on occasion. Sometimes this is clearly represented typographically in the original printed edition; at other times rhythms and syllable count strongly suggest verse in passages set as prose. Compositors’ errors, or printing house decisions, or the lay-out in the manuscript could be responsible for such lines not appearing as verse, but it would be clear to both actors and audience when the transitions occur.82Brome uses verse for a number of purposes. In Act 1, Dorcas’s soliloquy is marked as significant by being the most sustained verse passage in the play; it is utterly exceptional in the play so far [CG 1.1.speech82]. But it is not the first passage of verse in the play: Katherine has moved from prose when, in response to her father’s boorish behaviour, she expresses nobler sentiments that mark her as something of a romantic heroine [CG 1.1.speech58]. And this is one of the play’s characteristic uses of verse, to signal an exaltation of sentiment or intention. Conversely, towards the end of the play Gabriel and those around him use verse rhythms, frequently heavy and insistent, when performing martial valour. In these instances, the effect is somewhat parodic: Marlowe’s mighty line being used by a rag-tag crew of cowardly, drunken rioters.83Crosswill is the only other character besides Dorcas to have an extended soliloquy. It is intriguing that he speaks in prose when he opens Act 5 and, reflecting on his failures as a friend, neighbour, and father, begins the play’s catastrophe [CG 5.1.speech1008]. It would perhaps be stretching credibility for Crosswill suddenly to become ‘noble’, even though his momentary self-knowledge shows a rueful perception that other motives and other behaviours could have resulted in better outcomes. Nonetheless, a series of phrases and clauses at the opening of his speech fall into something close to iambic pentameter. Brome perhaps expects his audience to hear the faint echo of verse. But there is no mistaking the pentameter rhythms of Crosswill’s speech closing the play. As happens on at least one other occasion to end an act, verse here gives emphasis to the fact that this is the conclusion and the statement of a moral.Some miscellaneous performance issues84These comments concern features of the play that a modern staging would perhaps need to bear in mind. The Weeding of Covent Garden was composed for a theatre without elaborate staging resources; but some of its signs that would have been clear to the original audience might be lost in the twenty-first century.Costume85The play’s contemporary setting means that costuming issues are relatively few, though we should remember the investment early modern theatre companies made in costume. As a readily understood system of signs, costume functions to differentiate characters in this play on a number of occasions. Dorcas, in her role as Damyris, must be dressed as a courtesan, and perhaps as recognizably Venetian. Just how provocative her dress should be is debatable. She dresses to advertise and sell herself as some sort of sex worker when she appears on the balcony in the first scene; and Belt, the servant, refers to her breasts when he comments on how much he likes the ‘jetting out’ [CG 1.1.speech78]. Some of the other characters are no doubt also differentiated by their clothing. Gabriel, Crosswill's elder son who is representing himself as a puritan, is surely dressed modestly and in dark colours; his brother Mihil and the other members of the Brotherhood of the Blade and the Baton must be dressed in the clothes of fashionable young men about town, boldly aping military costume, such as that worn by their leader, Captain Driblow. This will include a sash or ribbon worn diagonally, and also a sword and a military baton. The baton will be used in the dance performed in front of Captain Driblow in Act Three.86The main issue to do with costume relates to disguise. If we are right in thinking that Thomas Nabbes’s acid comments in the prologue to his Covent Garden related to Brome’s play, the prominence of disguise as a dramatic technique was as noticeable to contemporaries as it is to modern readers of the play. Cockbrain disguises himself as a tavern performer, with false hair and a false beard. His son Anthony is also disguised until the end of the play. Mihil transforms himself from a fashionable young man with long hair into a puritan in order to pressure his father into accepting his marriage with Lucy; and, that achieved, reveals that his dour and demure appearance was achieved by wearing a short-haired wig. When he removes it, his father remarks on the deceptiveness of those who wear ‘half footballs’ [CG 5.3.speech1223], referring to the construction of wigs in contemporary theatre. The plural, ‘footballs’, seems also to indicate that Gabriel has been wearing a short-haired wig throughout, until he abandons his Puritan pose in the play’s final moments.87This is a play much concerned with the breaking down of all social barriers in the new urban spaces in constructed in London in the 1630s. There are surely differences in the costumes of members of the different social groups represented: Rooksbill, the city financier, is said to be dressed shabbily; his daughter Lucy is probably dressed less ostentatiously than Crosswill's daughter Katherine. But the play is concerned with the fact that these differentiations are becoming less stable.Accents88Some differentiation in accents is probably to be expected. Crosswill and his family come from the West of England and they are joining London society. However, playing these parts with a pronounced regional accent, especially Mummerset, can easily fall into the trap of over differentiation and making all those from the provinces seen less intelligent than the Londoners they meet, who will probably be performed in the modern theatre in deregionalised, twenty-first century received pronunciation. We should remember that Crosswill has the highest social status of anyone in the play, and his children will similarly have elevated standing. There are hints that Clotpoll comes from the same part of the world and the same social stratum as the Crosswills; he too is a monied young man, worth the milking by the Brothers of the Blade and Battoon. The Crosswills and Clotpoll, despite their country origins, are at the apex of the play’s social pyramid.89It is not clear whether there should be differentiation of accent among the Londoners. Does the aspiring magistrate Cockbrain speak with a different accent from the city financier Rooksbill? How different are the accents of the London lowlives, such as Madge the Bawd, from those of their social superiors? When Dorcas is pretending to be the Venetian courtesan Damaris, does she affect a faintly foreign, Italian, accent? In other plays Brome indicates foreign pronunciation typographically; nothing of this kind happens in The Weeding of Covent Garden. Nobody seems to be at all deceived as to the new whore’s origins, so perhaps the lack of an accent is part of the joke.Scenery and properties90The Weeding of Covent Garden requires little in the way of scenery: after the first scene in the streets around the Piazza in Covent Garden, it is set in a variety of internal spaces, and where the location is unclear Brome sometimes carefully informs his audience of location as each scene opens: ‘You are welcome to my father’s house’ [CG 3.2.speech620].91The key differences are between Dorcas’s new premises as she sets herself up as a courtesan; Mihil’s lodgings; Rooksbill’s house; and the various taverns. Dorcas’s premises have some of the same properties as the taverns - a table, chairs, and the materials for the sale of drinks. Mihil’s lodgings are probably like a modern college bedroom or a bed-sit: a chair, stools, and a bed (under which will be a chamber pot and his sword. There are no properties listed for Rooksbill’s house, but the taverns require drinking pots and, for Gabriel in the final act, a bed on which he can be brought on.Timescheme92Brome’s master would be proud of him: The Weeding of Covent Garden obeys the unities of time, place, and action, at least if, by place, we allow the various locations within Covent Garden to be a single entity.93There are no explicit indicators concerning the duration of the action, but there is nothing to suggest that this exceeds a day. Crosswill comes to town and is in search of lodgings; he finds his London-based son Mihil and loses Gabriel, his older son; he takes temporary lodgings in the house of his landlord, Rooksbill; then he, Rooksbill, and Cockbrain are reconciled with and agree to the various marriages of their children (and Crosswill’s niece Dorcas), even as the disruptive and riotous elements in Covent Garden society are expelled.94Moving between the various locations may be assumed to take a few minutes, and there has to be time for Mihil to recover Gabriel’s sanity by getting him drunk; but the alteration of focus from one plot strand to another gives the audience at least the illusion that this is credible.Metatheatricality95It is almost a commonplace now to say that there is a strong whiff of theatricality to the early modern city, and in this case specifically London.n9935 Brome’s play repeatedly emphasizes spectacle and performance: some examples are Crosswill’s self-conscious perversity; Gabriel’s adoption of a Puritan’s costume and manner; Dorcas’s determination to perform the part of a courtesan and her self-display on the balcony; the pretend law tutorial extemporized by Mihil, the Tailor, and the Shoemaker; the young men’s poses and costumes as vaguely military roisterers; the costumes and wigs that form the disguises of Cockbrain, his son Anthony, and Mihil; Cockbrain’s performance as a tavern entertainer; the roisterers’ dance for their leader, Captain Driblow; and the dances performed to fool and divert Gabriel, seen by Crosswill.96The play does more than include performances, however. Brome repeatedly draws the audience’s attention to its own presence in a theatre and to the intrinsic theatricality of the actions presented and of city life (The Weeding of Covent Garden is far from unique in his oeuvre in this regard). As one would expect, this focus on theatricality becomes most prominent towards the play’s conclusion, not least in the contrivance of disguise and multiple marriages, the excesses of which are exactly what Thomas Nabbes seems to criticize about Brome’s play. Nabbes’s censoriousness misses the point, perhaps: the ending of The Weeding of Covent Garden draws attention to the artificiality of its plot and genre, inviting the audience to take part in a complex interplay of irony, scepticism, and delight at the wish-fulfillment of the comedic ending. Brome has learnt from Jonson in Volpone and Bartholomew Fair: he is not repudiating the pleasures of the neat ending, but he does want his audience to remember that this is how the difficulties of the plot could be resolved in a theatre, but maybe not in the actual life beyond.97Before the excesses of Act 5, the most striking moment of metatheatricality occurs when Katherine informs Lucy, and also the audience, of the connection between Dorcas and Nick Rooksbill’s prior sexual history and her own and Gabriel’s reactions to their father’s dictatorial behaviour. This scene is the climax to a running joke which also continues into the final act: from his first encounter with Dorcas, when her does not recognize her, Nick wants to hear the new prostitute’s melancholy story from her own lips, not realizing that he is the villain. The telling keeps getting delayed as they move locations and Nick eventually hears it offstage.98When Katherine tells Lucy, the play amusingly dispels the sense that The Weeding of Covent Garden is a real world: Katherine in effect commands the audience to concentrate on her narrative if the plot of the play is to have any clarity and if the denouement is to have meaning . But the growing references to theatricality do more than this. Certainly, Brome shows urban spaces as theatres in which inhabitants and visitors perform for each other. But he takes this further by suggesting the degree to which so many of the characters are engaged in the construction of their own identities through performance and costume, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Despite provocative dress, position on the balcony, sexually significant lute-playing, and self-conscious speech in defence of a woman’s right to sell herself as a prostitute, Dorcas ultimately proves incapable of being Damyris, the courtesan; Crosswill, chastened by his parental failures, has to abandon - at least temporarily - his determination to be perverse and instead behaves reasonably and prudently in enabling his children to make their own marriage choices. For some of the young men, trying on the character of the fashionable roisterer seems almost a necessary phase in their progress towards being respectable members of society, their achievement of which is marked, as is traditional in comedy, by metamorphosis into husbands. Anthony, through his inability to sustain heartlessness or imprudence, shows himself not a natural roisterer; Mihil, once he gets his way in marrying Lucy, quietens; one has little hope that Nick, blackmailed into marriage to Dorcas, will maintain the character of husband. Gabriel is redeemed from Puritanism, but appears to be re-absorbed into the all-male fraternity of Driblow and Clotpoll. Of them all, Clotpoll seems most truly at home: a member of the vain-glorious Order of the Blade and Battoon, a cowardly blow-hard, given to facile, crude, and cruel jesting, boon companion of his braggadocio Captain. He is what he is.99It would be too much to claim for Brome a deep and pioneering exploration of the role of performance in the creation of identity. Nonetheless, particularly in his attention to the young people as they struggle to make the transition from dependence to the formation of independent households, Brome repeatedly sheds light on predicaments that are in some respects specific to the early modern period but otherwise perennial.

n9759   Steggle suggests that The Weeding of Covent Garden ‘was written in the second half of 1632 or in 1633’; and that it was probably performed shortly after composition while still highly topical. Matthew Steggle Richard Brome: Place and Politics on the Caroline Stage (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2004), p. 43. [go to text]

n9760   Certainly the play dates after the Royal Proclamation of June 20, 1632, directing the gentry to keep to their country houses - several months later from the quality of the allusions to it. It probably antedates May 10, 1633’. R.J. Kaufmann, Richard Brome: Caroline Playwright (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961), p. 74. [go to text]

n9761   opposition to the monopoly became open and vigorous by May 1633 S. R. Gardiner, History of England from the Accession of James I to the Outbreak of the Civil War 1603-42 (10 vols, 1883-4), Vol. 8, pp. 71-76. See also Pauline Gregg, King Charles I (California UP, 1984), pp. 217-8; and Hilton L. Root, The Fountain of Privilege: Political Foundations of Markets in Old Regime France and England (California UP, 1994), pp. 147-8. Brome's play jokes about the unpopularity of the soap monopoly and maybe particularly the soap itself, which was deemed to be of lower quality than Castile soap. Though some resented the monopolists because they were Catholics, this motive for resentment does not appear in the play. The soap monopoly later changed hands and was regularized by that able administrator William Juxon; it survived all changes of regime with Parliamentary support into the Restoration. [go to text]

n9762   Brome’s play is usually held to be one of a number in the briefly fashionable sub-genre of ‘place realism’ dramas, dating from the early 1630s. The category is first so identified by Theodore Miles, 'Place Realism in a Group of Caroline Plays' Review of English Studies 18 (1942), 428–440. [go to text]

n9763   City comedy became one of the dominant theatrical genres just as London itself grew at a pace that startled, fascinated, and alarmed contemporaries. See Brian Gibbons’s classic study, Jacobean City Comedy: A Study in the Satiric Plays of Jonson, Marston, and Middleton (London: Hart-Davis, 1968). [go to text]

n9764   The shape and dimensions of his social self are changing, just as are those of the London in which he has arrived; See Vanessa Harding, ‘City, Capital and Metropolis: the Changing Shape of Seventeenth Century London’, in J.F.Merritt (ed.), Imagining Early Modern London: Perceptions and Portrayals of the City from Stow to Strype, 1598-1720 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 117-143. [go to text]

n9765   Cockbrain strives energetically to impose mores and replicate the enforcement regimes of the City; Harding, p. 137, citing Joseph Ward, Metropolitan Communities: Trade Guilds, Identities, and Change in Early Modern London (Stanford, 1997). [go to text]

n9903   Doe not expect th' abuses of a Place; Nor th'ills sprung from a Strumpets painted face To be exprest. Our Author doth not meane With such vile stuffe to clothe his modest Scoene. Nor doth he brand it with a Satyres marke; But makes a Justice wiser then his Clerke. His Rusticks likewise will pretend to Wit: So all the Persons which wee counterfeit. He justifies that 'tis no borrow'd Straine, From the invention of anothers braine. Nor did he steale the Fancie. 'Tis the same Hee first intended by the proper Name. 'Twas not a toyle of yeares: few weekes brought forth This rugged Issue, might have beene more worth If he had lick'd it more. Nor doth he raise From th' imitation of authenticke Playes Matter or words to height: nor bundle up Conceits at Tavernes where the Wits doe sup. His Muse is solitary, and alone Doth practise her low speculation. He hath no faction in a partiall way, Prepar'd to cry it up, and boast the Play, Swelling your expectations: hee relies Meerely upon your ingenuities. The Matter's weake: how can the Building stand? Yes; if supported by a gratious Hand. Thomas Nabbes, Covent Garden, A Pleasant Comedy (1639), A1r. [go to text]

n9904   [R.J.] Kaufmann portrays a nostalgic conservative concerned to preserve Elizabethan values, [Martin] Butler a radical political critic’. Ira Clark, Professional Playwrights: Massinger, Ford, Shirley and Brome(Lexington: Kentucky University Press, 1992), p. 158. [go to text]

n9905   Brome-as-conservative is no longer fashionable, Kaufmann was admirably clear about his agenda: 'Brome’s point of view is conservative. This will be a key word in the analysis. He is genuinely and deeply concerned to preserve the values of the older “Tudor culture” which is being subverted before his eyes.’ (p. 3); ‘Brome doggedly retained a clear-headed consistent conservatism which he employed … as an intellectual basis for selecting, organizing, and dramatically rendering his primary social protests against an emergent set of attitudes which we now recognize as the basis for the modern world’ (p. 16); ‘Brome developed conservative social theories in his plays. In The Weeding of Covent Garden (1633) Brome argued for an ethic of restricted paternalistic state interference in a society rapidly being polarized into militant and mutually intolerant factions’ (p. 131). [go to text]

n9906   Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; See Conrad Russell, ‘Russell, Francis, fourth earl of Bedford (bap. 1587, d. 1641)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [] [go to text]

n9907   recent research by R. Malcolm Smuts and particularly of the architectural historian Dianne Duggan; and, through them, of access to newly-discovered documents at Woburn (the Duke of Bedford) and Alnwick (the Duke of Northumberland). R. Malcolm Smuts, Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987), especially pp. 127-8; and Dianne Duggan, ‘“London the Ring, Covent Garden the Jewell of that Ring”: New Light on Covent Garden’, Architectural History 43 (2000), 140-161; ‘The Fourth Side of the Covent Garden Piazza’, The British Art Journal 3 (2002), 53-65; ‘The Architectural Patronage of the 4th Earl of Bedford, 1587-1641’, University of London doctoral dissertation, 2002; and ‘The Prosecution of the Earl of Bedford’, London Topographical Record XXIX ed. Ann Loreille Saunders (2006), 1-21. [go to text]

n9908   in a later document defended himself from charges of contravening the planning and building licence: Smuts, Court Culture, p. 128 [go to text]

n9909   official disapproval of new building in London See Martin Butler, Theatre and Crisis, 1632-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) , p. 118; Matthew Steggle, Richard Brome: ‘a place where royal authority collided with aristocratic power’ (p. 49); Julie Sanders, Caroline Drama (Plymouth: NorthCote House, 1999): ‘The geographical setting of The Weeding of Covent Gardenplaces the play in a critical and potentially subversive position in relation to the crown’ (p. 50). [go to text]

n9910   a challenge to the king. Julie Sanders, Caroline Drama: ‘The Earl of Bedford was the chief property developer in the area and he, like a number of the dedicatees of Brome’s drama, was an aristocrat who often found himself in conflict with the crown (he had been a champion of the Petition of Right in 1629, and spent six months in prison for his involvement in the events which led to the closure of Sir Robert Cotton’s library). Covent Garden, and by implication Bedford, also placed itself in opposition to Charles’s Archbishop of Canterbury’ (p. 51). [go to text]

n9911   assertions that he was a puritan See, for instance, “the Puritan Earl of Bedford”, Smuts, Court Culture, p. 128; Steggle writes that the Covent Garden development was ‘a project conceived partly in strongly Puritan terms’ and that ‘Allegorically, then, the rise of Puritanism is a symbol of a dysfunctional father: a parody of the Caroline theory of “royal paternalism”’ (Richard Brome, p 49). [go to text]

n9912   Laud was translated to Canterbury in 1633. Butler, Theatre and Crisis, p. 147. [go to text]

n9913   encoded a militant Protestant ideology’. Matthew Steggle, Richard Brome, p. 47. [go to text]

n9914   deliberately distant from the aesthetic approved by Laud for ecclesiastical buildings (Butler, Theatre and Crisis, pp. 147-8). Butler illustrates this argument with Wenceslaus Hollar’s engraved view of Covent Garden church and piazza. However, Hollar’s view is inaccurate in that it shows St Paul’s Church in Doric, not Tuscan, style. [go to text]

n9915   a coded reference to the monarchy’. Julie Sanders, Caroline Drama, p. 50; my emphases. [go to text]

n9916   disagreements with each other: Julie Sanders, Caroline Drama: ‘it seems to me that Brome uses the three parallel relationships between fathers and children as a means of questioning Charles’s arbitrary form of government at the time’, p. 52. [go to text]

n9917   a stage version of Jones’. Sanders, Caroline Drama, p. 50. [go to text]

n9918   under concerted attack’. Vic Gatrell, City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London (London: Atlantic Books, 2006), p. 141. [go to text]

n9919   English constitutional arrangements. The assumption that the play is oppositional continues to thrive, however: Darryll Grantley writes, ‘The promotion of Covent Garden has political undertones involving the assertion of London against the crown … the enthusiastic advocacy of [the] scheme here can be regarded as a defence of Covent Garden against royalist objections to the project’ (London in Early Modern English Drama: Representing the Built Environment [Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2008], p. 149). The problem is that there is no ‘royalist’ (as opposed to ‘republican’) in 1633, and the Covent Garden development had thorough-going royal support. [go to text]

n9920   over-emphasized ‘crisis, conflict and social polarization’. Valerie Pearl, ‘Change and Stability in Seventeenth-century London’ The London Journal 5 (1979), 3-34; p. 3. [go to text]

n9921   over ship money in 1635. Ian W. Archer, ‘The Government of London, 1500-1650’ The London Journal 26 (2001), 19-28. [go to text]

n9922   consultation in parliament. Julie Sanders, for example: ‘Of course, Katharine, like her brother Mihil, finds means of achieving liberty from the dominant patriarch via seeming compliance, and this may in turn cast an interesting light on the wider politics of the 1630s. It was a decade of non-parliamentary rule, in which the king’s arbitrary introduction of new laws and national taxation came in for some criticism’ (Caroline Drama, p. 50). [go to text]

n9923   one critic writes. Sanders, Caroline Drama, p. 50. [go to text]

n9924   Ben Jonson celebrates at the end of To Penshurst, To Penshurst, l. 102. [go to text]

n9925   the absent Sidneys in To Penshurst; Sir Robert and his family were not in residence at Penshurst when the king arrived unexpectedly, despite James’s declaration that the nobility should reside in the localities in which they had responsibilities; Jonson achieves the superb rhetorical feat of celebrating the estate’s capacity to welcome the monarch nonetheless, turning the Sidneys’ absence from an embarrassment into a topic of praise. [go to text]

n9926   Naomi Tadmor to remain predominant well into the eighteenth century. Phil Withington, The Politics of Commonwealth: Citizens and Freemen in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 214. [go to text]

n9927   in the pursuit of personal relations. Diana O’Hara, Courtship and Constraint: Rethinking the Making of Marriage in Tudor England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), pp. 150-151. [go to text]

n9928   the epitome of the new society being created. Contemporaries did indeed complain that virtually every second house was a drinking establishment of some kind. [go to text]

n9929   even throw-away. The only real performance of this kind is that of Nick in kneeling to his father, a performance of subjection to the authority of a father and an elder. [go to text]

n9930   turned out to everyone’s satisfaction. Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977), p. 189. [go to text]

n9931   Children are so much the goods, the possessions of their parent, that they cannot, without a kind of theft, give away themselves without the allowance of those that have a right in them. Richard Allestree, The whole duty of man (London: 1675), p. 291; quoted in Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800. [go to text]

n9932   As William Blake was to do 150 years later in his coruscating poetic satire ‘London’, in the Songs of Experience (1793), Brome makes prostitution central to his marriage play, seeing it as the alluring but distorted twin of societally sanctioned sexuality. But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.
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n9933   independence through commercial activity. See Faramerz Dabhoiwala, ‘The Pattern of Sexual Immorality in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century London’, in Paul Griffiths and Mark S. R. Jenner (eds.), Londinopolis: Essays in the Cultural and Social History of Early Modern London (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), pp. 86-106. [go to text]

n9934   We are as freeborn as Men, have as free election and as free spirits; we are compounded of like parts and may with like liberty make benefit of our Creations. Quoted in Jennifer Low, Manhood and the Duel: Masculinity in Early Modern Drama and Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 137-138. [go to text]

n9935   It is almost a commonplace now to say that there is a strong whiff of theatricality to the early modern city, and in this case specifically London. Julie Sanders, Caroline Drama: ‘London functions in all these plays as a microcosm of theatre itself. As a meeting-place and a catalyst for activity and no mere reflector of society, the capital city is depicted as being akin to the very theatre-houses in which it is being staged to the view’ (pp. 44-45). [go to text]

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