Vol.94 Contents - ISSUE 1
Vol.94 Contents - ISSUE 2
Alastair Bellany. The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair, 1603-1660. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.
By: Curtis Perry
Arizona State University
By: Danielle Mory Smyth
University of Windsor
Abstract: 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.
Keywords: Goldsmyth, Accident, company, assayers.