Anthony Archdeacon, "The publication of No-body and Some-body: humanism, history and economics in the early Jacobean public theatre."EMLS 16.1 (2012): 2. http://purl.org/emls/16-1/archnobo.htm
… what so ere is doneAlthough there is often a larger social and political context, the joke is brought down to the domestic level several times in the course of the action, as when the husband enters arguing with his wife, who claims to have committed adultery with nobody (496) or when the apprentice insists to his master that he was with Nobody in the ale-house (503).
Amisse in London, is impos’d on me,
Be it lying, secret theft, or any thing
They call abuse, tis done by No-body (1176)
…he is onely held peacefull and quiet,The idea of fighting nobody is taken up and turned into a joke at the expense of braggarts (1214), and the Clown recounts how he was arrested as a vagrant for having had Nobody as a master). Another effect again, one of misanthropic pessimism, is achieved with statements such as the Second Man’s that “Nobodie will keepe his worde, Nobodies word is as good as his bond”. Probably the key form of the nobody word-play however, is that which enumerates the good deeds of Nobody, one which Luke Wilson (241) links to the parodic sermo neminis tradition, whilst acknowledging that it functioned rather differently because of the moral conscience aspect of the stage Nobody. I would suggest that this aspect of the stage Nobody’s function is distinct from that of the saintly Nemo who could perform miracles, who was ultimately a joke at the expense of medieval hagiographies. The function here is undoubtedly to draw attention to certain social ills, and moreover (going beyond the estates morality agenda) to suggest how some might be remedied. It is also the feature which highlights the contemporariness of a play ostensibly set in a remote past. Nobody’s appearance on stage is heralded by a speech which apparently praises the character:
That quarrels, brawles, and fights with Nobody,
He’s honest held that lies with Nobodies wife,
And he that hurts and injures Nobody,
All the world says, ey thats a virtuous man. (453)
Come twentie poore men to his gate at once,Here we see the crux of Nobody’s uniqueness as a creation, as distinct from all previous portrayals: unlike the Nobody of folklore and verse, he is not only blamed for bad things, but is responsible for doing good things. This gives the character a new possibility, and a dramatic energy, going beyond the critique of society to a recommendation of what should be done. And yet of course the double meanings throughout seem to press the pessimistic underlying message that no-one actually does this, so the audience (or reader) is encouraged to admire a social hero who, rather uncomfortably for everyone, doesn’t really exist. It is also important to note that the objects of social satire here are not the traditional ones highlighted by Wilson: the welfare of injured soldiers returning from foreign wars, or indeed “the generall poore” were hardly familiar topics of satire in the period.
Nobody gives them mony, meate and drinke,
If they be naked, clothes, then come poore souldiers,
Sick, maymd and shot, from any forraine warres,
Nobody takes them in, provides them harbor,
Maintaines their ruind fortunes at his charge,
He gives to orphants, and for widdowes buildes
Almes-houses, Spittles, and large Hospitals,
And when it comes in question, who is apt
For such good deeds, tis answerd, Nobody.
Now Nobodie hath entertaind againe
Long banisht Hospitalitie, and at his boord
A hundred lustie yeomen daily waites,
Whose long backs bend with weightie chynes of biefe,
And choise of cheere, whose fragments at his gate
Suffice the generall poore of the whole shire.
Nobodies table's free for travellers,
His buttry and his seller ope to all
That starve with drought, or thirst upon the way. (316)
come to them as often as you will, foure times a day, and theyle make Nobody drinke, they love to have Nobody trouble them, and without good security they will lend Nobody mony. Come in to Birchin Lane, theyle give Nobody a sute, chuse where he list. (472)Here the audience is invited to consider Londoners as generous and welcoming, showing Christian charity to the thirsty, poor and naked. But that positive reading is instantly undercut by the direct contemporary reference to the clothes sellers / hosiers of Birchin Lane, who presumably were not likely to give away suits, and therefore by the same token not going to give you a drink even if you asked four times a day. These jibes, at the very Londoners who might be in the audience, are a recurrent feature, and one surely designed to unsettle those who might be complacently distancing themselves from the targets of the play’s satire. The apparently simple moral polarities suggested by the characters Somebody and Nobody are constantly being complicated by the double meanings of everything they say. The Prologue may admit that “A morrall meaning you must then expect”, but the next line makes it clear than the moral will be more elusive than expected: “grounded on lesser than a shadowes shadow” (Prologue, 6). Whereas the morality play deals with the human condition largely in the abstract, dealing in allegorical types representing virtues, vices or faculties of the soul, this play addresses particular social or political problems via a combination of mytho-historical characters and a hero who cannot be said to represent anything at all. It depicts a society composed of an uneasy balance of contending forces, rather than a stable one based upon certitudes and, as we will see, a world of economic contingencies rather than moral absolutes.
Replie not, I take it to my selfeAnd then when he immediately does the same in a dispute over a “pretty Neat browne wench” (129) between Rafe and the Clown, claiming her (once he has established that she is still a virgin) as his own, the audience’s expectations have been moved rapidly from serious historical drama to the realm of farce. Though the interjections of Cornwall and Martianus regularly try to pull the action back to some level of seriousness, the historical plot is constantly teetering on the edge of comedy rather than tragedy, as when later Vigenius and Peridure literally wrestle for the crown, which Elidure has handed over without demur (1453). Again, members of the audience familiar with the notorious deposition scene of Richard II, where the act of handing over the crown is treated with a religious solemnity, would have perceived this scene as absurd, if not outrageous. Conversely, the ostensibly comic sub-plot climaxes with a litany of social ills in both town and country, against which context the matters of state seem like the petty squabbles of a dysfunctional family.
Because I would not have dissention
Betwixt two peeres, I love to see you friends.
And now the Islands mine, your quarrel ends.
Whats next. (99)
His barns are full, and when the CormorantsThe final double negatives force the listener to pause, to triple think, and consider the idea that it is actually surprising for a landowner not to abuse his position. With regard to the selling of grain under the market price, however, we suddenly have a note of realism: in this regard, Nobody is not impossibly munificent, he is a landlord who appreciates the common-sense of preserving his consumers in time of famine. Historical evidence suggests that the positive interpretation of the Nobody here was not as idealised as one might think. One of the features of English society which acted against widespread famine conditions in these decades was, according to John Walter, the giving or sale below market price of grain by landlords to the poor during periods of dearth:
And welthy farmers hoord up all the graine,
He empties all his Garners to the poore
Under the stretcht price that the Market yeelds,
Nobody racks no rents, doth not oppresse
His tenants with extortions. (340)
Apart from the promptings of church and conscience ... it was often in the self-interest of the “better sort” to lend to the poor in conditions of dearth which highlighted inequalities and bred resentment. ... The distribution of grain at under-prices by members of the gentry shaded into more obvious examples of outright benevolence and charity.So it seems that the play was advocating a fairly common practice, and berating those who, anti-socially, refused to help those in need. So Nobody in this respect may be a “strange opinioned fellow” as Cornwall calls him, but not completely unknown. His world may be a world in negative, where nothing is but what is not, but this is not More’s Utopia, or Gonzalo’s naively fanciful commonwealth in The Tempest: it is rather a world in which poor people might just survive. That the socio-economic situation of the ordinary people is an important theme of the play is underlined again when Somebody, by accusing Nobody of “ingrossing corne, and racking poor mens rents”, draws attention again to the common phenomena of dearths and repossessed farms, with their social consequences: “This makes so many beggers in the land” (1846-9), Somebody declares, with heavy irony, since he is the real cause.
Examine all the rich and wealthy chuffesThe Middle English insult “chuffes” gives a comical edge to this self-referential attack on the rich. Somebody goes on further to indict (unwittingly) the failings of “nobles of the land” who build great houses and have Nobody live in them: “A hundred Chimnies, and not one cast smoke.” (1868) Nobody’s response in his own defence is one of the most resonant speeches in the play, clearly grounded in the realities of early Jacobean Britain. It sheds light on the social problems of absentee landlords and high rents but also says clearly how they can and should be rectified, by reducing the rents and occupying the houses again:
Whose full cramd Garners too the roofes are fild,
In every dearth who makes this scarsitye (1854)
If things were done, they must be done by some-body,
Else they could have no being. Is corn hoorded,
Some-body hords it, else it would be delt,
In mutuall plentie throughout the land,
Are their rents raisd, if No-body should doe it,
Then should it be undone. Is
Safe money stampt, and the kings letters forgd,
Some-body needs must doe it, therefore not I,
And when he saies, great houses long since built
Lye destitute, and wast uninhabited,
By No-body my liedge, I answer thus,
If Some-body dwelt therein, I would give place,
Or wold he but alow those chimnies fire
They would cast cloudes to heaven, the Kitchin-foode
It woulde releeve the poore, the sellers beere,
It would makes strangers drink. (1884)
SomebodyAlmost threatening to name and shame the criminals in his audience, Nobody’s riposte both balances the play’s derisive attacks upon the higher social groups and places the action unquestionably in the present.
Once pickt a pocket in this Play-house yard,
Was hoysted on the stage, and shamd about it. (1938)
...They ne’er cared for us yet: suffer us to famish, and their storehouses crammed with grain; make edicts for usury to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich; and provide more piercing statutes daily to chain up and restrain the poor. (Coriolanus, 1.1.77)The contemporary references of the citizens’ complaints have been examined in some detail by Richard Wilson (1993). The fact of rising grain prices in the first years of the seventeenth century in Warwickshire, even after harvests had recovered, points to profiteering by grain-hoarding landlords. Such exploitation of control over resources is exactly what Nobody was attacking. This was less on moral grounds, than a strategic policy to maintain social order and cohesion, since food riots were a localised but regular occurrence, and as Wilson (89) points out, the Midlands rising of 1607 could be attributed to the artificially high cost of grain. All three of these plays go beyond moralising about greed or tyranny and hint at constructive social criticism – of the mismanagement of resources, and insensitivity to the suffering of the poorest in society. And rather than either damning or idealising the poor, they perceived them as social problems remediable by intervention from those in authority.
 This essay has its origins in a paper presented to the University of Hertfordshire conference “In Shakespeare’s Shadow”, on minor drama 1590-1610, organised by Andrew Stott and Andrew Spong , March 1997.
 The play was reprinted in the nineteenth century by Richard Simpson, and was edited by David Hay (1980) but only facsimile editions have found their way to print in recent years.
 Entered in the Stationers’ Register under the date March 12, 1606: see Kramer 85.
 Shakespeare’s Chamberlain’s Men had become the King’s Men, so the new reign under James marked a ramping up of royal patronage of the public theatre.
 See Gurr 139-40; also Fleay 293-4: Fleay observes that “play-house yard” here need not refer to an inn-yard, citing the word “yard” used for the pit in the indentures for building the Globe.
 See also Halpern (1992).
 The character’s fame seems to have been greater on the continent. By the time that The Tempest was first being performed in late 1611, No-body and Some-body had already been off the London stage for four years, during which it was performed in Germany, Austria and later the Netherlands.
 In addition to Calmann’s exhaustive work, several of the images are reproduced in L.Wilson,149-157, and in Bosman, which also has the 1608 drawing of Nobody.
 Line references are using David Hay’s 1980 edition.
 I am indebted to Brantley and Fulton (337) for this information, though my interpretation of it is rather different.
 See Guerlac 58-9; Brantley and Fulton interpret this as a lewd joke meaning “Nothing and Nobody bite each other in the balls”, but Guerlac translates the sophism as the more decent “Nothing and Nobody devour each other in a sack”, but I have followed Guerlac's translation.
 See also the widely circulated piece of workplace wit on the subject of “Teamwork”, which tells a brief tale of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody, concluding, “It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done”.
 Wilson cites actual legal cases where fictional “nobodies” were named as responsible for crimes in this period, but though they provide a fascinating intertextual perspective on the issue of blame, the connection to our play is tenuous since he acknowledges (218) that only one recorded legal case actually names a ‘Nemo’.
 There is a possible metadramatic significance to this joke, if the Clown is seen as representing players who were, thanks to the Elizabethan Poor Laws, apt to be classed along with vagrants as ‘undeserving poor’.
 A more convincing comparison could be made to Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), where ‘no place’ represented somewhere impossibly good.
 Saulnier 135-200; also Farce Nouvelle et fort ioyeuse a troys Personnages cestassavoir Tout Rien et Chascun, Anon., in Farces c.1550 BM ref. c.20.e.13.
. See Schoell 13: “Elle [la farce] présente des types de différents états de la société et leurs conflits dans le mariage, dans l’école, dans l’exercise du métier, dans les rapports sociaux et économiques.” Schoell suggests (10) that Rey-Flaud under-stated the critical and satirical elements of the farce.
 Illegitimacy is the subject of the farce Jenin Fils de Rien, in which Jenin is a sot or fool but also a figure of pity.
 The locus classicus for this in Middle English writing would be Langland’s Piers Plowman, where the allegorical figures of Wit, Wisdom, Reason and Conscience are set against the likes of Concupiscencia Carnis.
 See Kramer 85-87.
 Dessen 122.
 Chambers (37) used this supposition (based on the fact that “Sycophant” was Essex’s nickname for the courtier) to date the play after 1603, the year of Cobham’s disgrace; see also Fleay, who points out (293) the physical aptness of Some-body representing the Falstaffian Cobham.
 One of these works on flatulence, Physiologia crepitus ventris, was the work of Rodolphus Goclenius, also author of a treatise on Nothing in the same collection.
 In the seventeenth century, Birchin Lane was known for men’s ready-made clothes shops.
 Walter & Schofield 105, 107; see 104-13 for details of these practices.
 Interestingly, the only use of the word in Shakespeare is by Falstaff in 1 Henry IV, who calls the travellers he is about to rob ‘fat chuffs’ (II.ii.87)
 King Lear references are to The History of King Lear in the Wells and Taylor edition, which uses the 1608 quarto version.
 See Wrightson 141.