"The City Cannot Hold You": Social Conversion in the Goldsmith's Shop
Janelle Day Jenstad
University of Windsor
Jenstad, Janelle Day. '"The City Cannot Hold You": Social Conversion in the Goldsmith's Shop." Early Modern Literary Studies 8.2 (September, 2002): 5.1-26 <URL:

[T]his world is like a Mynt, we are no sooner cast into the fire, taken out agen, hamerd, stampt, and made Currant, but presently wee are changed[.] (Dekker and Webster 2.1.174-76)

    1. If the world is a metaphoric mint, who better to manipulate its social possibilities than the goldsmith? Because of the nature of their business - "the quintessential luxury trade" (Styles 112) - London's goldsmiths had frequent dealings with all degrees of gentlemen. In city comedies generally, the business of change and exchange with its attendant vocabulary (the language of conversion) is a vehicle for exploring broader changes. Exploring social conversion in the context of the early modern goldsmith's shop offers a playwright particularly rich metaphoric possibilities, for the goldsmith converted things on a quotidian basis. As a banker, he exchanged gold coins for silver and silver for gold. As a craftsman, he converted old plate or bullion into new plate. As an agent of the crown, he took foreign coin, old coin, and bullion to the Mint, where it was converted into new currency. This paper explains the cultural status of the goldsmith in early modern England, and then turns to Thomas Middleton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1613) to show how the goldsmith's imbrication in the business of literal conversion offers a powerful context for an examination of social conversion. The malleable nature of gold - Yellowhammer's medium - provides a metaphor for his protean social identity. In this play, I argue, Middleton invokes the rich language of the goldsmiths' trade in order to discipline the socially ambitious Yellowhammers and to demonstrate the limitations of upward mobility in early modern London.

    2. It is no accident that the goldsmith appears on stage most frequently in the city comedies of 1600 to 1620, [1] for he exemplifies the duality typical of this genre's array of stock characters. [2] Cheapside and Goldsmiths' Row, considered to be an ornament to the city and a synecdoche of the national wealth, were the most visible and public areas of the urban topography that such plays map. John Stow described Goldsmiths' Row as "the most beautiful frame of fair houses and shops that be within the walls of London, or elsewhere in England" (324). [3] As the purveyors of the ultimate luxury goods, goldsmiths were central to London's developing commodity culture; Phillipa Glanville catalogues the plate objects rapidly becoming essential to the households of the upwardly mobile, and notes that "[f]ew other forms were so expressive of status" (110). As the first bankers and moneychangers, the goldsmiths were key to the market changes that preoccupied city comedy. Goldsmiths had, as Simon Wortham notes, a "double image" as "official agents / covert enemies of the state" (339); their privileged knowledge of the coinage (exercised in an official capacity by the King's Moniers at the Mint, by those goldsmiths selected to oversee the recall and remonetisation of old coin, and by the assayers chosen from the Goldsmiths' Company for the annual Trial of the Pyx) enabled those who were moneychangers to sort, weigh, and cull the heaviest coins passing through their private shops (as a prelude to the illegal activities of bullion export or coin clipping, both of which undermined the "common wealth"). [4] As moneylenders, goldsmiths shared the moral opprobrium and the anxiety about social mobility that attaches to the usurers who so frequently appear in city comedy. [5] Goldsmiths were thus a potential threat both to the coinage through their literal exchanges of bad coin for good and to the social order through their metaphoric exchanges of money for titles.

    3. The goldsmiths had greater enticement and opportunity than many other citizens to better their social status because the nature of their wares brought them into regular contact with the world beyond the city. As craftsmen, goldsmiths had a broad clientele, from the "new consumers" (Glanville 47) who purchased single apostle spoons to the noblemen who furnished an entire table with plate. As moneylenders, goldsmiths conducted regular business with aristocrats, and gentlemen, and, increasingly, the agents of the Crown. As assayers, they made their annual progress to Star Chamber for the Trial of the Pyx and took their oaths before the Lord Treasurer or, in 1611, the King himself. The most successful goldsmiths rivalled their best customers in wealth and rank. Charles Jackson has suggested that more goldsmiths than any other kind of citizen were raised to gentle status (46). Socially, the retailing goldsmiths [6] were adjacent to the gentle classes and were well positioned to cross that permeable yet psychologically important boundary between merchant-citizen and gentleman described by William Harrison in his Description of England:

      In this place also [after gentlemen] are our merchants to be installed, as amongst the citizens (although they often change estate with gentlemen, as gentlemen do with them, by a mutual conversion of the one into the other)[.] (Harrison 115)

      One aspect of the satire on the Jacobean inflation of honours in Eastward Ho! depends on its audience's assumption that a disproportionate number of goldsmiths seized the opportunity to become gentlemen. Mrs. Touchstone complains that her husband, adamant about remaining a citizen, might have bought a knighthood "as well as some of [. . . their] neighbours" (Jonson, Chapman, and Marston 1.2.99).

    4. For London's goldsmiths, social conversion actually took place in both directions. Many of their apprentices were the sons of gentlemen. While apprentices "were drawn from all levels of society [. . . f]or an apprenticeship to a wealthy member of one of the twelve Great Companies, parents might have to pay a premium of several hundred pounds" (Smith 220). Andrew Gurr notes that "[i]n the wealthiest companies, such as the goldsmiths', nearly a third of apprentices were the sons of gentlemen" (52). It was common for lesser gentry to send their sons to the city to learn a trade, younger sons in particular, who would then take the freedom and become citizens. Those who were successful might even use their new wealth to return to the country: "[m]erchants of city descent, or younger sons of the gentry who had been apprenticed to city trades, often bought their way back into country society as purchasers of feudal castles or builders of manor-houses" (Heinemann 5). [7] Thomas Heywood's The Four Prentices of London capitalises upon the perception that the most prestigious trades offer the best possibility of a return to gentle status through money; Guy, second son of the bankrupt Earl of Bulloigne, sees goldsmithing as "a good refuge in extremity" and "a meanes to purchase wealth, / Though my state waste, and towring honours fall" (170). Goldsmiths thus facilitated and enacted several interrelated economic and social conversions: the transferral of wealth from gentlemen to citizens, the translation of wealth from land into cash, and the social transformations of the gentleman into the citizen and the citizen into the gentleman.

    5. In A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, Yellowhammer is a craftsman, retailer, shop-owner, and money-changer. His shop, where the two worlds of the gentleman and the citizen meet legitimately in the relationship between the purchaser and the purveyor of luxury goods, is the most important locus of social mobility in the play, the place where mutual conversion occurs. The Yellowhammers intend to effect their social rise through the conventional avenues of the education of their son (paying the higher fees that entitle him to matriculate as one of the "gentlemen commoners" and sending him the silver spoon "to eat his broth in the hall" with the other elite students [1.1.50-52]) and the advantageous marriages of both their children. Moll is promised to Sir Walter Whorehound, who, though a gentleman of undistinguished degree, can provide a title to match the wealth of her 2000-pound dowry. The goldsmith's money and his relatively high civic status make his daughter desirable as a wife even to a gentleman, especially to one of precarious fortune. In return Sir Walter has arranged a marriage for her brother with his "niece," actually his mistress but taken by the gullible Yellowhammers to be a gentlewoman with money, livestock, and land (nineteen mountains in Wales) to match the entry-level gentle status Tim has acquired through his university degree. Preoccupied with the imminent rise in their status, the Yellowhammers fail to notice that Sir Walter has mastered the economy of the goldsmith's shop and turned its conventionally duplicitous practices against the goldsmith himself, passing off his former whore as a "chaste maid" much as a light coin might be tendered as a heavy one. [8]

    6. As Swapan Chakravorty has observed, the characters in A Chaste Maid in Cheapside are the result of a "shuffling [of] the old actants and indices" of Middleton's earlier plays (96). Despite the conventional associations of goldsmiths with duplicitous shop practices and usury, Middleton eschews the invitation, compelling though it must have been, to reincarnate Quomodo, the cozening linen draper of Michaelmas Term (1605), as a goldsmith. In Quomodo, the plots functions of duplicitous tradesman and usurer coincide; he makes "coarse commodities look sleek" (1.1.81), and lures Easy into the kind of commodity scam we see elsewhere attributed to usurers. Yellowhammer is not guilty of either offence. His social ambition is also muted; each of Quomodo and Yellowhammer sends his dim-witted son to Cambridge and plans an advantageous match for his daughter, but Quomodo is far more explicit about his goal ("Land, fair neat land" [1.1.101]) than Yellowhammer is. [9] By another shuffling of plot functions, Sir Walter's "status in society and in the narrative is divided. In the Yellowhammer household, he plays the gallant trickster [. . .]. In the Allwit ménage, his role shrivels to a nervous mixture of gullible country knight and suspicious citizen cuckold" (Chakravorty 97). Chakravorty's observations about Middleton's "shuffling" of plot functions support my contention that Sir Walter plays the goldsmith, performing the trade-specific cheat conventionally associated with the stage goldsmith but here transferred from Yellowhammer to his customer.

    7. The Yellowhammers and Sir Walter occupy adjacent rungs of the social ladder. The small gap between them is exaggerated by the Yellowhammers, who stand to gain socially from the marriage of Moll and Sir Walter, and minimized by Sir Walter, whose gain from the marriage will be solely financial. Although they admire him, emulate his mannerisms, and claim that his "presence" and "brave Court spirit" naturally "daunt a maid brought up i'the city" (1.1.118-20), Sir Walter repeatedly betrays his mercantile mode of thinking and his adoption of the adaptive strategies of London's denizens. [10] Thinking like a merchant in a world where "all things come into Commerce, and passe into traffique" (Wheeler; qtd. in Leinwand 27), he puts a price even on Moll's maidenhead, which is worth forty pounds (4.2.94). The upward mobility of the citizen and his wife is matched by what one might call Sir Walter's downward mobility, a classic case of mutual conversion.

    8. The mutual conversion of citizen and gentlemen requires that each master the other's mode of speaking. The success or failure of these characters to speak the language of the city, the court, or the goldsmith's shop pinpoints their social position. Like most critics, I agree that Middleton refuses "to credit the social hierarchy - at least insofar as it distinguishes between merchant and gentry in social worth - with any real validity except as the mental furniture of conventional characters or as a reliable index of specific behaviors" (Paster, "Quomodo" 168-69). Paul Yachnin makes a very useful distinction between the "sacramental" and "scientific" understandings of social hierarchy: in the former, status is fixed and divinely ordained; in the latter, more appropriately named "theatrical" by Matthew Martin (2), status is commodified, transferable, and playable. While the global perspective of Middleton's plays on the social order is theatrical, his characters' perspectives or "mental furniture" can be sacramental. Yellowhammer certainly talks as if status is innate (literally, in-born); indeed, he needs it to be innate for his grandchildren, the offspring of Sir Walter, to be born gentle. [11] Middleton's irony operates in the gap between Yellowhammer's belief in the innate difference between himself and Sir Walter (manifested in his analysis of their respective modes of speaking) and their obvious similarities.

    9. The hypersensitivity of certain characters to language in this play betrays their desire to mark social status linguistically and to decouple economic relations and social gradations. But the languages spoken in early modern London - like the business transacted there - did not always bear out the desired or expected differences. The distinctions between merchants and their gentle customers collapse into similarities wherever mutual conversion becomes possible. As Theodore Leinwand has observed, "the economic leveling among merchants, landed gentry, and nobility paradoxically produced a desire in each group to differentiate itself as clearly as it could from the others" (38). To us, as Chakravorty asserts, these differentiations of "court, city, and country begin to seem ruses of rhetorical codes, held in place by linguistic policing" (104). Ironically, it is the upwardly mobile who have the most interest in maintaining hierarchies. Those who are moving up the social ladder need to know exactly where the rungs are, not least so they can distance themselves from their former level once they have climbed past it.

    10. Sir Walter is no stranger to the city, and his "specific behaviours" are as mercantile as those of the denizens of Cheapside. His first words welcome the Welsh Gentlewoman "to the heart of the city of London" (1.1.92-93), a place he knows well from his longstanding ménage with the Allwits. His topographical reference points include St. Paul's Cathedral, whose tower he invokes as a measure of the height of the Welsh Gentlewoman's hypothetical mountains (1.1.134). His bride-to-be is the daughter of a goldsmith, whom he is marrying chiefly for her dowry of "two thousand pound in gold" (4.2.92). His illegitimate children, despite their gentle parentage (effaced by the Allwit patronymic), are to be subsumed into the city through apprenticeship: "I'll bind Wat prentice to a goldsmith, my father Yellowhammer; / As fit as can be. Nick with some vintner, good goldsmith / And vintner; there will be wine in bowls, i'faith" (1.2.131-34). [12] Like other minor gentlemen, Sir Walter clearly knows how to dispose of sons through the traditional structures of London. The distinction he draws, with acute sensitivity to city hierarchies, between his illegitimate children by Mrs. Allwit and the legitimate children he plans to have by Moll Yellowhammer suggests that he himself does not subscribe to the sacramental view of social status as "innate," since the status of his children clearly depends not on blood but on name (or, to put a finer point on the distinction, not on birth but on christening, to which Sir Walter stands as godfather in order that no one will take him as the father).

    11. Despite Sir Walter's shortcomings as a gentleman, to the citizens, puritans, and gossips who populate Cheapside he represents the court. Maudlin wrongly attributes Moll's diffidence to a city girl's awe in the presence of a courtier (1.1.118-20, cited above). Yellowhammer identifies Sir Walter with the landmarks of the courtly world (Whitehall to the west of the City and Greenwich to the east), while disguising his own ambition with protestations of his citizen status and civic loyalty. They are so eager to read the markers of this world in his behaviour that they erroneously attribute courtly language to him although he has uttered none. Yellowhammer responds to Sir Walter's short and generic first address to Moll with a fascinating mixture of false modesty and class-consciousness:

      Pish, stop your words good knight, 'twill make her [Moll] blush else, which sound too high for the daughters of the freedom [i.e., the daughters of men free of the London guilds]. "Honour," and "faithful servant," they are compliments for the worthies of Whitehall, or Greenwich. E'en plain, sufficient subsidy words serves us sir. (1.1.125-29)

      What makes this speech revealing is that Sir Walter has not, in fact, uttered "compliments for the worthies of Whitehall." "Faithful servant" is a ubiquitous phrase, and he has not used the word "honour" at all. [13] Yellowhammer imagines that he has heard courtly "compliments" in Sir Walter's words merely because he associates Sir Walter with the courtly world. Though he professes his loyalty to the "plain, sufficient subsidy words" of the city, he betrays his pleasure in what he thinks is the language of the court, a language he, with the hypersensitivity of the upwardly mobile, feels is "too high" for a liveryman yet secretly hopes his children will master.

    12. In a similar incident, the gossips at the christening celebration read class distinctions into Sir Walter's greeting, "The fatness of your wishes to you all ladies" (3.2.30). They call these "fine words" (3.2.31), even though "fatness of your wishes," in keeping with the generally misogynist tone of the scene, sounds more like an insult than a compliment. The gossips have some sense that being called "ladies" is inappropriate, but assume that Sir Walter flatters them with a title they do not merit rather than that he is unversed in the class distinctions he is supposed to represent. In their comparison of Sir Walter ("a fine gentleman, and a courteous") to Allwit ("Methinks her husband shows like a clown [i.e., a rustic fellow] to him" [3.2.34-35]), [14] they, like Yellowhammer, seem to be articulating their preconceptions about social class.

    13. The Yellowhammers' hypersensitivity to hierarchical markers manifests itself in their repeated attempts to locate themselves precisely within the social structure as they understand it. They are so acutely aware that their daughter is "no gentlewoman" (1.1.189) - in the sense that she is not born "gentle" - that they eschew and correct Touchwood Junior's generic use of the term for Moll. They boast to Sir Walter that Tim, whom they modestly characterise as a "poor plain boy," will become "half a knight" or "Sir Yellowhammer" when he graduates from Cambridge (1.1.153-56). Parker's explanatory footnote - "'Sir' was a rending of the Latin dominus [. . .] when used with the surname only - hence 'half a knight'" (16 n. 149) - is slightly misleading because Tim would not be called "Sir Yellowhammer" in English or outside of academia. William Harrison's description of gentlemen indicates that "whoso abideth in the university giving his mind to his book [. . .] can live without manual labor [. . .] shall for money have a coat and arms bestowed upon him by heralds [. . .] and [. . .] be called master, which is the title that men give to esquires and gentlemen (114, my emphasis). Thus the Yellowhammers both underestimate their daughter's present status and overestimate their son's future status. These assertions of difference are necessary if their new status is to mean anything once their social goals have been realised.

    14. Despite his ambition, Yellowhammer is loath to underestimate his present position and wealth. He invokes civic hierarchies even as he flatters Sir Walter with references to Whitehall and Greenwich. "Plain, sufficient subsidy words" may sound modest because of the adjectives "plain" and "sufficient," but in fact a "subsidy citizen" was one wealthy enough to pay subsidies, the extraordinary taxes and grants demanded by the king. London officials saved time by surveying and assessing only the wealthiest households, which they could do because Elizabethan and Jacobean subsidies were not a general income tax but a fixed levy on a locality; it was faster to collect 50 pounds from ten households, say, than five pounds from 100 households (Rappaport 166-72). Paying subsidies was indeed a dubious privilege, but one that nonetheless served to separate the richest citizens from their poorer neighbours. [15] Those poorer neighbours in the play are themselves attuned to even the narrowest gradations of civic hierarchies. In the gossips' jostle for precedence in following the newly christened Allwit baby into the lying-in chamber, one asks "Are you any better than a comfit-maker's wife?" and the other replies, "And that's as good at all times as a 'pothecary's" (2.3.67-69). [16] Yellowhammer might aspire to gentle status (inflating its worth as he dreams of having it), but that he is clearly better versed in the nuances of the civic hierarchy than in the degrees of gentility is part of the ironic humour of the play.

    15. Yellowhammer's opening speech sets the stage for his downfall and ultimate containment within the city hierarchy. Entering his shop, he articulates his fear that the shop-cum-bank, left to his wife's management in his absence, will take in counterfeit coin and give out good coin (the reverse of the bimetallic flow the coin-sorting goldsmith strove to achieve). Implicitly equating professional competence with civic loyalty and linguistic competence, he accuses his wife of displaying disloyalty in her vocabulary, criticising her use of the word "errors" to describe their daughter's faults:

      "Errors," nay the city cannot hold you wife, but you must needs fetch words from Westminster. [. . .] Has no attorney's clerk been here alate and changed his half-crown-piece his mother sent him, or rather cozened you with a gilded twopence, to bring the word in fashion for her faults or cracks in duty and obedience, term 'em e'en so, sweet wife? As there is no woman made without a flaw, your purest lawns have frays, and cambrics bracks. (1.1.23-30)

      Yellowhammer imagines that Maudlin has picked up the word "errors" from a Westminster clerk who must have just been in the shop. Although Maudlin has used the word in its common sense of "mistakes," Yellowhammer invokes the Westminster-specific sense of "wanderings," a neologism used only in conscious imitation of French (Oxford English Dictionary 5:377). The linguistic transgression inherent in using "errors" to mean "wandering" is itself figured as a kind of metaphoric wandering, a crossing of the border between the city and Westminster to "fetch" words and bring them back. Yellowhammer's lament that "the city cannot hold you" suggests his simultaneous fear and hope that civic boundaries, real and imagined, cannot contain the citizenry. Strangely, although Yellowhammer suggests "cracks" as a better word than "errors," evoking the idea of cracked coins as well as making a bawdy joke, his metaphors quickly slide into ones more appropriate to a draper than a goldsmith, framing Moll's errors as "frays" and "bracks." [17] Despite her supposedly "erring" vocabulary, it is Maudlin who demonstrates mastery of the lexicon of goldsmithing. [18] She re-establishes the metallurgical metaphors by saying that "a husband solders up all cracks" (1.1.31). [19]

    16. The imagined discursive transgression leads Yellowhammer to accuse Maudlin of professional incompetence, a failure to recognise a counterfeit half-crown-piece when asked to change it. He speculates that she has used inappropriate language because she has been dazzled by the Westminster customer, who, he imagines, has taken advantage of her awe to pass a gilded silver twopence as a gold coin. The Elizabethan and Jacobean silver twopence or half-groat is nearly identical in size and design to the gold half-crown; both are marked with a profile portrait of the monarch on the obverse, and the reverses differ only in that the half-crown is stamped with a crowned shield and the twopence with an uncrowned shield (Brooke 197-201). A gilded silver twopence might well pass for a gold half-crown to the unwary. But a goldsmith would not be fooled by this trick; in fact, it was precisely this sort of deception that the unscrupulous goldsmith supposedly practised on his customers. [20] With nearly forty different denominations in general circulation, all subject to debasement, wear and tear, coin clipping, shaving, and sweating, even the simplest payment required considerable cultural knowledge. The goldsmith knew far more than his customers about the materiality of coins. [21]

    17. Through the figurative conflation of economic and sexual activities, Sir Walter is able to effect a metaphoric version of this imagined deception. The two marriages that will propel the next generation of Yellowhammers into the gentry entail a simple exchange of Moll for the Welsh Gentlewoman. But the goldsmith's daughter is worth far more in both her dowry and her chastity than Sir Walter's cast-off mistress. By giving Yellowhammer a worthless prostitute in exchange for the rich and virtuous Moll, Sir Walter deceives him in much the same way the goldsmith had feared that an attorney's clerk might deceive his wife with a gilded twopence. As its title suggests, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside brings together the twin obsessions of city comedy, the marketplace and female sexuality. [22] There is an implied oxymoron in the title, for "Cheapside was the principal marketing street of the city, if not of the kingdom" (Keene 13) long before and even after the building of the Royal Exchange in 1569 and of the New Exchange in 1609. The original audience would have identified a disjunction between the "chaste maid" and her location "in Cheapside," a place where everything was for sale. [23] The implication, if the "chaste maid" herself is for sale, is that she is one of the prostitutes who sold their "virginity" numerous times. There is an obvious analogy between such a practice and Sir Walter's representation of the Welsh Gentlewoman, his cast-off whore, as a virgin and an heiress. Indeed, the term "Welsh virgin" (1.1.105), as Davy Dahumma identifies her, was a slang term for a prostitute (Haselkorn 1). But Moll, who is truly "chaste" and whose chastity is an ironic reversal of the conventional association of city women with the trade of prostitution, is also up for sale, the object of a thinly disguised mercantile exchange between Yellowhammer and Sir Walter, in which her "sweet maidenhead," like those of the supposedly virginal prostitutes, carries the quantifiable value of forty pounds (4.2.93-94).

    18. The notion that women are commodified as marketable objects in Cheapside is embodied in the pun on the words "chaste," meaning sexually pure, and "chased," a term describing plate "ornamented with embossed work, engraved in relief" (Oxford English Dictionary 3:53) or a jewel set in gold or silver (also "enchased"). [24] The chaste maid, who could be either Yellowhammer's virtuous daughter or the prostitute who becomes his daughter-in-law, is thus already metonymically commodified as part of the goldsmith's stock. As in many other early modern plays, women are described in the metaphors of moneychanging, metalworking, and lapidarianism. But the self-consciously economic context of the goldsmith's shop - with its real activities of coin and bullion exchange, plate manufacture, and jewellery-making - foregrounds the vehicle rather than the tenor of these metaphors, putting the emphasis not so much on the women described by such metaphors as on the interlocutors who deploy the metaphors.

    19. The Yellowhammers use the terms of their trade to describe their daughter. They persistently see her as metal, either gold, silver, or base metal depending on her malleability. When Moll fails to show the requisite enthusiasm for the Yellowhammers' project of refashioning her into a knight's wife (through the mastery of ornamental accomplishments like music, dancing, and waving her hand), Maudlin accuses her of being "dull" and "drossy sp[i]rited"; she "dance[s] like a plumber's daughter" and deserves "two thousand pound in lead [. . .] and not in goldsmith's ware" as her dowry (1.1.10, 17-20). This accusation is not merely a metallurgical devaluation, but a social devaluation as well, for plumbers, from the smallest of the lesser companies, were far below goldsmiths in the civic hierarchy. [25] Despite her unwillingness to cooperate in an exchange, Moll still retains intrinsic value to her parents. Yellowhammer, attempting to prevent Moll from escaping to meet the man she loves, equates her in value and exchangeability to the bullion or coins in his shop: "I will lock up this baggage, / As carefully as my gold" (3.1.50-51). [26] Unlike gold coin, Moll cannot circulate without compromising her exchange value; indeed, since her intrinsic value (her virginity) would be consumed in the first exchange, Yellowhammer must ensure that the first exchange is for a husband (unless he is to hire the services of a doctor to "string her again" [Middleton, Michaelmas Term 1.1.15]). Tim literalises the metaphor of woman as valuable commodity by expressing his surprise that the "thieves" who he thinks have taken her did not also take the plate: "Thieves, thieves, my sister's stolen, / [. . .] O how miraculously did my father's plate 'scape, / 'Twas all left out [. . .] / Besides three chains of pearl and a box of coral" (4.1.288, 290-91, 293). To him, Moll is an object vulnerable to theft that needs to be kept under her father's "double lock" (4.2.34) like the other valuables in the shop. When they think Moll is dead, and thus no longer valuable to them, the Yellowhammers characterise her as silver that has lost its gilding: Tim says "[g]old into white money was never so changed, / As is my sister's colour into paleness" (5.2.20-21). Moll thus becomes analogous to the gilded twopence that would, with wear, reveal itself to be a silver coin and not a gold one. However, Moll is ultimately not base metal or a counterfeit coin, but "beauty set in goodness [. . . ]that jewel so infixed" (5.4.17-18), a reference that suggests that she is the true "chased" maid despite her parents' debasement of her.

    20. Sir Walter's supposed niece, the Welsh Gentlewoman, whose "red hair" (1.1.36) aligns her with the debased copper apostle spoon given to the Allwit baby, [27] is the antithesis of Moll, the base metal to Moll's true gold. She is not gold, as Sir Walter well knows, but she can be exchanged for gold if he plays the role of goldsmith effectively:

      I bring thee up to turn thee into gold wench, and make thy fortune shine like your bright trade. A goldsmith's shop sets out a city maid. [. . .] Here you must pass for a pure virgin. (1.1.99-101, 104)

      The verbs in this passage pun on various notions of change and exchange. "Set out" suggests both "enchase in gold" and set out for sale in a shop window; either meaning would allow one to interpret "city maid" as either Moll or the transformed Welsh Gentlewoman. "Pass" means "appear to be," "circulate," and "hand over." "Trade" means a one-time exchange and the regular practice of exchange entailed in a business (in this case, the "bright trade" of prostitution). The passage also suggests an alchemical transformation. Sir Walter's cast-off whore is eventually metamorphosed into metaphoric gold through marriage and legally sanctioned sexual relations, analogous to the philosopher's stone, in a process that supersedes the convoluted logic of Tim and his tutor: "Sir if your logic cannot prove me honest, / There's a thing called marriage, and that makes me honest" (5.4.115-16). [28] In terms of the plot, Sir Walter's plans entail a literal exchange of his cast-off whore for a virginal wife. But, like the stereotypical goldsmith, Sir Walter must enact a deceit, making a counterfeit, impoverished "welsh virgin" with no intrinsic value appear to have the exchange value of a genuine maid with a fortune. [29]

    21. Significantly, the first entrance of Sir Walter and the Welsh Gentlewoman is juxtaposed with the action of evaluation. A gentleman comes into the shop to sell a chain. Yellowhammer weighs the chain, and then counteroffers with a price only two-thirds of what the gentleman asks: "A hundred marks the utmost, 'tis not for me else" (1.1.112). This brief representation of the quotidian economic activity of the goldsmith's shop demonstrates Yellowhammer's professional perspicuity, which includes his skill in putting a value on precious metal objects as well as his instinctual rejection of an unprofitable deal. When Sir Walter enters, declaring his intention of "turning" his whore "into gold," he identifies himself as both merchant and customer, hoping to sell the Welsh Gentlewoman and buy Moll instead. Like the man with the chain, he brings an object into the shop for valuation and sale. Unlike the man with the chain, he manages to outwit Yellowhammer at his own trade, passing off the counterfeit virgin in exchange for the real virgin. Because of the conflation of economic and sexual metaphors, Yellowhammer's failure to see the Welsh Gentlewoman for what she is becomes a kind of metaphoric professional failure. Sir Walter, though he is ultimately unsuccessful in winning Moll, successfully manipulates the economy of the goldsmith's shop.

    22. Making the blocking father a goldsmith also allows Middleton to deploy the context against this character in another way. Touchwood Junior outwits the goldsmith at his own game by having Yellowhammer unknowingly craft his own daughter's wedding ring. It will take five acts before Touchwood Junior finally succeeds in his schemes to rescue Moll from parental vigilance and Sir Walter's greed, [30] but in his first scene he handily deceives the goldsmith, cheekily asking Yellowhammer to engrave "Love that's wise, blinds parents' eyes" (1.1.200, 3.1.47) on the ring. Because Touchwood Junior is his customer and must be accommodated, Yellowhammer, after deferentially begging pardon, surmises that the customer is about to "steal away some man's daughter" but indulgently muses that "[y]ou gentlemen are mad wags" (1.1.208-09). The scene is full of the double meanings one expects from a scene in which one speaker possesses knowledge not shared by the other, and allows for some apt puns on lapidarianism that contribute to the woman-as-treasure motif. Discussing the diamond that will be set in the ring, Yellowhammer calls it a "pure one"; Touchwood Junior replies, "So is the mistress" (1.1.181-82). In a fine dramatic irony, Yellowhammer declares parents who are deceived by their daughters to have "dull" sight (1.1.212). Touchwood Junior calls this trick "a good mirth" (1.1.166) but also "honesty in me to enrich my father" (1.1.169), a reminder of the mutually beneficial economy that brings merchants and gentlemen together.

    23. Given his sensitivity to the hierarchies implied by place, it is appropriate that topographical limitations ultimately counteract Yellowhammer's outward and upward ambition, so that he is, in the end, contained by the city itself. His social trajectory began in Oxfordshire (4.1.206-07), suggesting he is meant to be one of the many who were drawn by the economic opportunities London offered. Although her status is less significant because of her gender, Maudlin's cousin is an Inns of Court man (1.1.86), suggesting that she might have connections among the minor gentry who frequently sent their sons to London for legal training. Yellowhammer's plans for his children show that he wants to complete the transformation from migrant to wealthy citizen to minor gentry in the space of three generations. But the play does not allow Yellowhammer or his family to make the next upward move. Despite his university education, Tim remains "an English man [. . .] born i' the heart of London" (4.1.140-41). In Yellowhammer's final moment of humiliation, it is not the disapprobation of men like Sir Walter that weighs upon his mind, but rather that of his neighbours: "All the whole street will hate us, and the world / Point me out cruel" (5.2.108). Here, Yellowhammer is like Quomodo, who desires land in the country but fantasises about the response of "the Livery" (Middleton, Michaelmas Term 3.4.5).

    24. Unlike Sir Walter, Yellowhammer is not a swindler but a blocking parent motivated by greed and self-interest. He is not only incorporated into the marriage celebration, like most blocking parents, but he offers to host the feast. [31] With his last words, Yellowhammer withdraws into the place that signifies most potently that he is a craftsman, a liveryman, and a citizen:

      So fortune seldom deals two marriages
      With one hand, and both lucky: the best is
      One feast will serve them both: marry, for room
      I'll have the dinner kept in Goldsmiths' Hall. (5.4.122-25)

      His decision to hold the feast in Goldsmiths' Hall in Foster Lane signifies his retreat to the familiar and deeply conservative world in whose cultural taxonomy the subsidy-citizen is well versed. As T. F. Reddaway and other historians of London have shown, the livery company halls represented a residual economic order threatened by urban expansion beyond the jurisdiction of the City. Yellowhammer also articulates a renewed commitment to thrift ("one feast will serve them both"), a commercial strategy antithetical to yet dependent upon the conspicuous consumption practised by the goldsmith's principal customer, the gentleman of means. For the goldsmith to be financially successful, he must eschew for himself the desires of his customers, even as he fosters those desires in them. Social conversion shows itself to be economically unwise in this play. Sir Walter, the object of the Yellowhammers' aspirations, ends the play in debtors' prison, his long run of city credit terminated by Lady Kix's pregnancy with the child whose birth will disinherit him. Fortunately for Yellowhammer, Sir Walter's "exchange" of the Welsh Virgin for Moll, the chaste maid, is only half successful. Yellowhammer marries the counterfeit to his son, but is prevented from paying for her in the good coin of Moll.

    25. Where on the social ladder does Middleton leave the social aspirant? His children's marriages are dead-ends as pathways to the gentry. Tim and Sir Walter's cast-off whore have between them only his Cambridge degree and her "bright trade" to sustain them; given Tim's unpromising wit, they are - unless the goldsmith's shop enables them to "live without manual labour" (Harrison 114) - poised to become the next Allwits, making a living in London's burgeoning unofficial suburban economy. Moll marries the younger brother of a "younger brother" (2.1.87), who seems to have little chance of inheriting anything; the Touchwood brothers are precisely the sort of young men who would have been sent to London to make their own way. Touchwood Senior tells us that he has "known / This city now above seven years" (2.1.108-09), long enough, in an age when most of the city's denizens had been there for less than one generation, for him to have become a de facto Londoner. Moll's marriage to Touchwood Junior does not guarantee her gentle status. Despite the descriptions of Touchwood Senior in "The Names of the principall Persons" in the 1630 quarto as "a decayed Gentleman" (Middleton, Chast Mayd sig. A1v) and of Touchwood Junior in the play as "[a] kind proper gentleman" (2.2.49), the play is consciously loose with the terms "gentleman" and "gentlewoman," several times playing on the generic polite term and the honorific title, as it does in Yellowhammer's modest protest that his daughter is "no gentlewoman" (cited above). [32] The voracious city in A Chaste Maid in Cheapside does not easily relinquish its hold on the Yellowhammers. It is more likely to convert Touchwood Junior into a Londoner than it is to convert Moll into a gentlewoman. The socio-economic mechanisms of city life do finally contain Yellowhammer and his progeny within the city.

    26. A Chaste Maid in Cheapside is not the only early modern play that treats women as commodities or the objects of exchange. Indeed, the trope is so common that Sandra K. Fischer identifies "Women as Merchandise" as a recurring image cluster in her study of economic metaphors in Renaissance drama. [33] The shopkeeper's wife and daughter in city comedy are conventionally commodified regardless of his trade. However, the commodification has particular resonance in the context of the goldsmith's shop because of the similarly conventional equation of women with coin or jewels. Nor is A Chaste Maid in Cheapside Middleton's only use of the plot device whereby a sexually experienced woman is traded in for a virgin. In Michaelmas Term, Hellgill, Sir Walter's prototype, promises the Country Wench that she "may well pass for a gentlewoman i' th' city" (1.2.5-6). Middleton also uses the plot device of the transformed courtesan in A Trick to Catch the Old One. However, the references to the change and exchange of women in his other plays lack the additional meanings available to him in A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. But Middleton is not merely succumbing to the temptation to pun on setting, as Heywood does in Edward IV, where Jane Shore, wife of the goldsmith Matthew Shore, is metaphorically represented as a jewel for which the king bargains. [34] Rather, Middleton combines the common woman-as-treasure trope and the plot device of the exchanged woman into a means by which the goldsmith's stereotypically threatening knowledge of coins and bullion is turned against him to discipline his social ambitions.


I thank Elizabeth Hanson of Queen's University for her incisive comments on an early version of this paper, the two anonymous readers at EMLS for their very helpful suggestions and questions, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for the fellowship that supported my initial research.

1. Other goldsmiths in early modern drama include: Bradshaw in The Tragedy of Master Arden of Faversham (Anonymous; 1587/8-1591/2); Angelo in The Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare; 1588-93); Guy, the son of the Earl of Bulloigne and a goldsmith's apprentice, in The Four Prentices of London (Thomas Heywood; 1594, printed 1615); unnamed jewellers in Histrio-mastix (John Marston; 1599) and 2 If You Know Not Me You Know Nobody (Thomas Heywood; 1605); Matthew Shore and his two apprentices in 1 Edward IV and 2 Edward IV (Thomas Heywood; 1599); Master Burnish, his apprentice Lionel, and an off-stage jeweller, Master Shatewe, in The Dutch Courtesan (John Marston; 1603-04); Luce's father and Joseph, the goldsmith's apprentice, in The Wise Woman of Hogsdon (Thomas Heywood; 1604?); Touchstone and his apprentices, Golding and Quicksilver, in Eastward Ho! (Ben Jonson, George Chapman, John Marston; 1605), an important play that I merely touch on in the present article, having written about it elsewhere; Master Profit, a goldsmith-moneylender invoked by Master Quomodo in Michaelmas Term (Thomas Middleton; ca. 1605); Master Balance in Greene's Tu Quoque (John Cooke; 1611); Gilthead and his son Plutarchus in The Devil is an Ass (Ben Jonson; 1616); and an unnamed goldsmith who has a man arrested on suspicion of trying to pawn a stolen jewel in The Wonder of a Kingdom (Thomas Dekker [and John Day?]; 1631).

2. Leinwand summarises the merchants' "predetermined social roles" (i.e., stage stereotypes) thus: "[t]hey are threats to the community or they are miscalculating fools (often they are both at once), they are sexually inadequate or they covet their wives and relatives, they are clambering out of their status group and aiming for a country estate or they are intolerably proud of their citizenship" (79).

3. Similarly, Michael Drayton, writing a propaganda piece for the goldsmiths on the occasion of James I's coronation, calls Cheapside "the Starre and Iewel of thy land" (sig. B3v).

4. On bullion export, the proclamations against it, and the merchants' and goldsmiths' culpability of this crime against the commonwealth, see Jenstad, "The Burse and the Merchant's Purse."

5. Robert Greene's A Quip for an Upstart Courtier nicely encapsulates the liminal social status of the goldsmiths, identifying them as upwardly mobile yet labelling them as citizens. The goldsmith is grouped with other "welthy Citizens" (276), but is rejected for jury duty because, like the merchant who "creepeth into whole Lordships," the goldsmith ruins young gentlemen and acquires their estates. In A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, this anxiety is registered only in Allwit's satisfaction that he is not one of those merchant-moneylenders who would "dye / Their conscience in the bloods of prodigal heirs, / To deck their night-piece" (1.2.43-45). There is no concrete evidence in the play that Yellowhammer is one of these notorious stage figures who draw prodigals into debt; however, Yellowhammer's exaggerated social aspirations link him with the conventionally ambitious usurer of other plays.

6. See Jenstad, "'The Gouldesmythes Storehowse'" for a description of the various kinds of goldsmiths and the relationship of the retailer to the craftsman in the early seventeenth century. See also Mitchell for an analysis of a later seventeenth-century goldsmith's business activities.

7. Anxiety over urban social mobility was out of proportion to the number of civic elite who actually crossed the boundary between merchant and gentlemen. Heinemann's "often" must be qualified with historical data. 24 of the 140 aldermen in Lang's sample were identifiably the sons of knights and gentlemen, most of them from "near the bottom of their class" ("Social Origins" 31, 39); all but one were younger sons (40 n. 8). Only 18 of the 140 retired to the country (45); Lang does not state how many of these retirees were the sons of gentlemen. His conclusion is a useful corrective to the city comedy stereotype that merchants wished to buy their way out of their class: "London's greater merchants were deeply bound to the city; by their apprenticeships from the time they were teenagers until their mid-twenties, by their marriages to the daughters and sisters of citizens, by their business affairs, by civic office, by their circles of city friends, and most of all by the respect, prestige, and honour that attended success in the city and which could not be translated, like so much capital, to another social milieu" (47). Particularly valuable, given both Quomodo's and Yellowhammer's desire to impress their civic neighbours (which I discuss below), is Lang's observation that the successful citizen might be loath to abandon the prestige he had achieved in London.

8. Miller makes an incipient version of my point, but suggests that the Welsh Gentlewoman, not Sir Walter, will "like the twopence which Yellowhammer imagines cozening his wife . . . cozen the Yellowhammer family by marrying their son" (85). Miller's wide-ranging paper links goldsmiths to fluctuating value, and fluctuating value to the carnivalesque female body.

9. Between 1605 and 1613, the citizen's desire for land became so conventionalised that Middleton has only to have Sir Walter ascribe mountains to the Welsh Gentlewoman to make us understand that Sir Walter is appealing to the ambition of Yellowhammer. Yellowhammer will demonstrates aspects of both extremes ascribed to the merchant by Leinwand, upward mobility and civic loyalty (79, cited above in n. 2).

10. I use the word "denizens" deliberately here. Yellowhammer, one of the few characters in the play who works at a legitimate trade, is the only citizen among the major characters. Strictly speaking, citizens included only those men free of one of the livery companies; Yellowhammer is free of the Goldsmiths' Company, but Allwit, who is "but one peep above a serving man" (1.2.68-69) according to his own servants, does not appear to be free of any company. His only trade is the "bright trade," to borrow Sir Walter's term, of prostitution. In the economy of city comedy, however, "[t]he traditional relations of corporations, guilds, and tradesmen are 'thrust down,' as Bakhtin would put it, into a 'lower bodily stratum'" (Wells 57). This genre, with its purposefully carnivalesque inversions of the official social order, frequently catalogues prostitution among the twelve great trades in order to point to the contradiction between the official ideology of the city (manifest in the mayoral pageants, for example, which assume power lies with the mayoralty, shrievalty, Common Council, and livery companies) and its all-consuming, disreputable, and uncontrollable marketplace in which both flesh and goldsmiths' wares were merely commodities. The Dutch Courtesan, for example, describes the "profession or vocation" of a "bawd" to be "most worshipful of all the twelve companies. [. . .] Her shop has the best ware" (1.2.29-30, 35). There are many jokes in city comedies about the trade in maidenheads, which could be exchanged many times. An earlier version of this plot line (Michaelmas Term), in which the pander Hellgill brings the Country Wench to London to be turned into a gentlewoman, suggests that the first exchange is a woman's entry into trade, akin to the liveryman's taking the freedom of his company: "Virginity is no city trade, / You're out o' th' freedom [i.e., not yet free], when you're a maid" (1.2.43-44). By "selling" his mistress to Yellowhammer, Sir Walter demonstrates his skill at Allwit's trade.

11. It is important to note that Yellowhammer is trying to turn not himself but his children and grandchildren into gentlefolk. Martin's analysis of Michaelmas Term suggests that the key factor distinguishing the sacramental from the theatrical view was the amount of time required to fashion a gentleman; the sacramental view requires three generations (and a good helping of forgetfulness), while the theatrical requires little more than the two hours traffic of stage time. Of course, Martin's point is that Middleton's use of "accelerated time" (9) exposes the longer cycle of time as being similarly transformative.

12. This passage also highlights the intimate relationship between gentlemen and citizens produced by the exchange of luxury commodities, and suggests how Sir Walter has come to know Yellowhammer.

13. Chakravorty characterises Yellowhammer as "annoyed" and fails to notice that Sir Walter has not uttered the offending word (104).

14. This exchange recalls the Nurse's comparison of Paris to Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (1594?), another instance of hypersensitivity to class distinctions: "O, he's a lovely gentleman! / Romeo's a dishclout to him" (3.5.220-21). Romeo and Juliet and its analogues lie behind the forbidden marriage and the false funeral of A Chaste Maid in Cheapside.

15. In Middleton's Michaelmas Term, Quomodo invokes the subsidy rolls several times as the signifier of a wealthy and trustworthy citizen: "I might ha' had a good substantial citizen, that would ha' paid the sum roundly" (3.4.56-57); "What will you say to us, if we procure you two substantial subsidy citizens to bail you[?]" (3.4.88-90); and "They must be wealthy subsidy-men, sir, at least forty pound i' th' King's Books" (3.4.174-76).

The names of those liable to pay subsidies were recorded in the "subsidy book" or "subsidy roll." The London rolls were organised by ward and parish, with the names of the taxpayers, their worth, and the amount assessed listed in columnar fashion. It is easy to see how such a recorded list might become a marker of status, a literally legible taxonomy of the civic elite. Lang attributes the "formation of the common opinion of worth in Elizabethan London" to the many assessments for subsidies, local taxes, and parish wages; Londoners were frequently engaged in "officially sponsored scrutiny of their neighbours' condition" which "contributed to making the evaluation of one's neighbours a habit of mind" (Lang, Two Tudor Subsidy Rolls lx).

16. This incident may allude to the quarrel between the grocers and apothecaries, uneasily incorporated into one company in 1608 (Parker xxxiii).

17. A brack is a flaw in a piece of cloth arising from overstretching on the tenters (Oxford English Dictionary 2:473).

18. While more work needs to be done on the role of women in the trade, it is clear from the ordinances that women were both necessary to the trade and yet suspect in the same way that apprentices were. One ordinance declares that "no member of the Company shall employ women burnishers who are married to men of other crafts" (Walker 249), which tells us first that burnishing was undertaken by women and second that the women who undertook the task were a potential threat because of their access to privileged knowledge. In the interests of guarding the privileged knowledge of the mystery, another ordinance stresses "that the secrets and privities of the craft may only be revealed to goldsmiths and those who are the 'apprentyces, allowed servaunts, or covenaunt men' of goldsmiths, and not to any female servants or to members of other crafts" (Walker 270), linking women (even those of the household) with strangers.

19. This scene lends itself to a gendered reading, as Paster has compellingly argued. The "metonymic chain" of popular patriarchal discourse suggested that "a woman who leaves her house is a woman who talks is a woman who drinks is a woman who leaks. Any point in the linkage may imply or abridge the rest" (Body Embarrassed 46). Thus, Maudlin talking and using the word "errors" implies, in Yellowhammer's mind, her leaving the house (61-62). My argument differs from Paster's in that I read "cracks" as trade-specific nomenclature with a sexual pun rather than "patriarchal nomenclature" (62), and in that I am concerned with general issues of class containment. I would suggest that Yellowhammer's anxiety over his wife's metaphoric wandering, coupled with his own wandering metaphors, is symptomatic of his own migratory impulses. Gender issues are subordinate to class issues in my analysis.

20. In April 1601, Master Simpson's servant, Roger Palmer, was disciplined for gilding an Edward shilling. Doing so made the silver coin appear to be a gold sovereign coin. After telling the Court of Wardens that he was "verie sorie therefore," Palmer was referred to the Court of Assistants for punishment (Goldsmiths' Company Court Minutes O Part 2, 3 April 1601, cited by kind permission of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths).

21. Since coins were not stamped with a numerical face value, one had to determine their value from the size of the coin (which varied with each minting as the prices of gold and silver changed and was of course altered by wear and the depredations of the clipper), and from the design (which also changed with each minting). One also had to know which coins were debased (many of the coins issued during the Great Debasement of Henry VIII and Edward VI were still circulating sixty years later) and what their called-down value was relative to that of good coins. Only those who handled vast quantities of coin, as the goldsmiths did, would know all the minutiae of Elizabethan currency. Although all consumers must, of necessity, have possessed a not inconsiderable numismatic expertise, Fischer speculates that "some of the coins handled daily were entirely unfamiliar to the representative citizen" (23). Certainly most of the 173 foreign or old coins listed in Gamon's "The Gouldesmythes Storehowse" (a manuscript miscellany that included tables of the values of foreign coins) would have been known only to the goldsmiths whose job it was to take them to the Mint, having exchanged them for current money.

22. The themes of "money and sex, and their frequent interaction" (Leggatt 4-5) have been seen as the identifying features of city comedy since Citizen Comedy in the Age of Shakespeare (1973).

23. Paster notes that "A Chaste Maid in Cheapside is supposed to sound oxymoronic, like Dekker's Honest Whore" (The Idea of the City 153). Chakravorty likewise notes that Tim's description of Moll as a "mermaid" (4.2.68), "one of the period's many names for a prostitute, turns the chaste maid into Cheapside's oxymoronic buy of the season [Lent], composed of the equally vendible halves of flesh and fish" (103).

24. The play develops the lapidary pun further, in the making of the ring "of some half ounce, stand fair and comely, with the spark of a diamond" which Touchwood Junior supplies for Yellowhammer to set (1.1.179-80) and in other passages. See Parker xlix n.1.

25. The Goldsmiths' Company's Wardens Accounts and Court Minutes characterise "pewterers founders and Turners" as "sondry inferior handy craftes" (GCCM O Part 3, 4 November 1607).

26. This passage evokes the sexually charged image-cluster of ducats, daughter, bags, and stones in The Merchant of Venice (2.7.15-24).

27. Sir Walter brings the traditional christening gift of an apostle spoon. The reddish hue of the spoon prompts one gossip to identify the apostle as Judas (traditionally excluded from sets of apostle spoons but elsewhere depicted with a red beard). The footnote in the new Norton anthology, English Renaissance Drama, erroneously states that "[t]he color gold, achieved here by gilding, was regarded as reddish in hue" (Bevington et al 1483 n. 2). That the silver spoon is reddish suggests not that its finial is gilt but that the silver is partly debased with copper, hinting at both Sir Walter's cheapness and the gossips' ignorance. Particularly after the Great Debasement of 1542-51, red signified high copper content; Henry VIII's base testons were called "red noses" because the silver gilding wore off the nose of the mostly copper royal image first.

28. Commenting on this passage and linking it to Maudlin's claim that "a husband solders up all cracks" (1.1.31), Chakravorty argues that "[p]ower is phallic." He and I agree in reading "the thing called marriage" more particularly as the phallus (i.e., that belonging to Tim, whose last words [cut off by Yellowhammer, according to the punctuation of the 1630 quarto] indicate his resolve to "mount upon-" [5.4.121; Middleton, Chast Mayd K4r]). My argument about the transformation of Sir Walter's "niece" differs from Chakravorty's in that, in identifying metallurgical and alchemical metaphors in the expression of phallic power, I see the Welsh Gentlewoman as being genuinely changed (so that she has what one might call "intrinsic value"), while he focuses on "the subterfuge of language" by which Tim reads "meretrix" as "merry tricks" (Middleton 4.4.114; Chakravorty 104) to suggest that the change is superficial (so that she has what one might call "exchange value").

29. Dekker's Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish (1631) makes a similar equation between a woman's apparent intrinsic value (her literal fortune) and her exchange value: "A black wench, if she be penny-white, passes for current money where a fair wench that hath no pence shall be nailed up for a counterfeit" (116).

30. A full analysis of Touchwood Junior's motives is beyond the scope of this paper, but there are hints that his interest in Moll is at least as much financial as romantic, as Hotz-Davies has observed (38 n.2).

31. In Susan Wells's analysis of the ending of A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, Yellowhammer is one of those accumulating characters who is "educated by the rules of the feast" (49).

32. See also 2.2.75, where Allwit calls the promoters "gentlemen," 1.1.16, 1.1.90, 1.1.195, 1.1.215, 2.1.27, and other instances of the word.

33. See also her catalogues of metaphors under "Marriage as an Economic Contract," "The Economics of Sex," and "Human Worth: Intrinsic and Exchange Value" (18-20) and the corresponding glossary entries.

34. Jane is described as the "[b]right twinkling spark of precious diamond, / Of greater value than all India!" (Heywood 64). Like Yellowhammer, Shore fears a deceit, suspecting that the king might be trying to frame him by foisting some "false compounded metals, or light gold, / Or else some other trifle to be sold" on his inexpert wife (78). Likewise, in The Dutch Courtesan, the wife of the goldsmith Master Burnish, "metonymically becomes the ornaments her husband sells" (Newman 122).

Works Cited


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© 2002-, Lisa Hopkins (Editor, EMLS).