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Daniel Cadman, Disgrace me on the open stage and bob me off with ne’er a penny’: The Hog Hath Lost his Pearl and Commercial Metatheatre
15 November, 2018 @ 1:05 pm - 1:50 pm
Robert Tailor’s play, The Hog Hath Lost His Pearl, was first performed in 1613 at the Whitefriars playhouse by the London Apprentices. It consists of two plots, one of which follows the conventions of the city comedy and focuses upon the efforts to thwart a merciless usurer (the eponymous Hog), whilst the other is closer to romantic tragicomedy in focusing upon the love rivalry between two former friends. Some commentators have attempted to explain the yoking of the two largely independent plots as a result of the censorship to which the play was subjected as a result of its satirical depictions of the Lord Mayor, Sir John Swinnerton. This paper, however, will propose an alternative reading which emphasises a pattern of allusions to relatively recent theatrical productions of which Shakespeare seems to have been a specific target. With its representations of usury and an attempted elopement, the main plot draws heavily upon The Merchant of Venice, whilst the sub-plot echoes the problem plays in its inclusion of a bed-trick, as well as alluding to As You Like It in its depictions of a forest exile and its representation of one of the lovers carving penitent verses on the trees. Such allusions, I argue, are complemented by a sustained reflection upon the commercial pressures exerted upon participants in the public theatres. This is suggested most readily by the representation of the protagonist of the main plot, who attempts to gain a commission for a theatrical jig and mobilises a theatre company to help outwit the antagonistic usurer. I suggest that the combination of allusions and the reflections upon the financial aspects of theatrical culture combine to produce a specifically commercial form of metatheatre and that Tailor’s play represents a distinctive example of an amateur company reflecting upon the commercial aspects of the professional theatres.
Dr Daniel Cadman is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Sheffield Hallam University. His primary research area is Renaissance drama and his monograph Sovereigns and Subjects in Early Modern Neo-Senecan Drama: Republicanism, Stoicism and Authority was published by Ashgate in 2015.