Korda 2011

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Korda, Natasha. Labors Lost: Women's Work and the Early Modern English Stage. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.
"Situating the commercial playhouses within the broader economic landscape of early modern London, this book argues that the rise of the professional stage relied on the labor, wares, ingenuity, and capital of women of all stripes, including ordinary crafts- and tradeswomen who supplied costumes, properties, and comestibles; wealthy heiresses and widows who provided much-needed capital and credit; wives, daughters, and widows of theater people who worked actively alongside their male kin; and immigrant women who fueled the fashion-driven stage with a range of newfangled skills and commodities." (1)
"Women, whose labor was often proscribed or restricted within the formal economy regulated by guilds and civic authorities, predominated in the informal networks of trade that flourished in the suburbs and liberties where hte commerical theaters were located." (1)

Labors Lost

Weavers' Company ordinance of 1596 -- no women may weave unless they're widows of guild members (20)

"Although crafts- and tradesmen's wives ad daughters often worked actively alongside their male kin, either in manual labor or taking charge of the financial end of the family business (receiving payments, acting as buyers, and so forth ), their labor was unremunerated and therefore largely unrecorded. As such, it belonged to a hidden, yet nonetheless crucial "shadow" economy." (20)
"A dichotomous view of female absence versus presence is insufficient to account for women's work in the informal sector, whichw as present yet often hidden, unacknolwedged, undervalued, stigmatized, or otherwise placed under cultural erasure." (21)

"informal economy" of women's work -- done in suburbs, off the books, outside of guilds (21)

rise of commercial theaters coincided with the loosening of the guild system and expansion of informal sector; theaters located in subrbs where informal economy had liberties (24)

women apprenticed to the wives of guildsmen to learn needlework (27, see n84)

"women's participation in the theatrical affairs of male kin"

account books of Office of Revels -- evidence of women's work in the manufacture of luxury attire

stigma of idleness -- gendered; "playing" (acting) considered "the antithetises of work" (50)

"The claims that playing was a dishonest calling and that the commercial theater was a 'nuserie of idelnesse' were frequently cast in gendered terms that linked idleness to effeminacy." (51)
"Situated on the cusp of the formal and informal sectors, the commercial theaters thus worked to women's advantage and disadvantage, opening new employment opportunities for women while at the same time excluding them from the most visible or open workspace of the theater, the stage itself, in an effort to define the play that took place there as legitimate work." (53)

Dame Usury

"Usury in early modern England was construed as the antithesis of 'honest' work, or in Aristotelian/Thomistic terms, as an unnatural reproduction of wealth that circumvented productive labor. Instead of working, usurers put money itself to work -- and their money never stopped working, even on the Sabbath." (54)

usury -- gendered as a form of idle female reproduction; monstrous birth (55)

"While some women turned to moneylending before marriage to increase the size of their inherited portions, others remained unmarried and were able to live off the interest from loans. Unmarried women and widows, who had fewer claims on their money and who were unconstrained by the law of coverture restricting married women's legal and financial rights, were among the most important providers of credit, often putting large portions of their estates out at interest to friends, neighbors, and kin, as well as tradesmen, merchants, and even local town governments." (58)
"Depending on the circumstances, women moneylenders were regarded as indispensable facilitators of, or irritating impediments to, male commercial enterprise and (ad)venture. Among the circumstances that influenced how female creditors were perceived were marital status, 'credit' or sexual reputation, and the degree of agency and self-interest (or 'will') and expertise (or 'skill') they exhibited in their financial and legal dealings." (60-1)
"By characterizing widows and maids as lacking in will and skill, and as socially vulnerable and victimized, their defenders could construe women's moneylending as an expression of God's mercy rather than as a self-interested, profit-making venture. Ironically, as mentioned above, this rhetorical strategy was adopted by financially savvy single women and widows themselves when they defended their own commercial interests in equity courts." (68)

Merchant of Venice "invites us to question how POrtia's marriage bond differs from, and how it resembles, Shylock's pound of flesh" (76)

"Without discounting Portia's rhetoric of liberality, I would like to suggest that the ideological resonances of her speech and her character pull in two directions: toward the familiar figure of the bountiful heiress who willingly hands over her portion to pay her husband's debts, on the one hand, and, less familiarly, toward the emergent figure of the married female creditor whose use of bonds, new (ac)counting techniques, and skilled navigation of legal systems enables her to exercise her will with respect to her marital property and to extend loans, even to her own husband, on the other." (76)
"It is Shylock's passion for vengeance at all costs, the play suggests, that clouds his judgment and ability to reckon. His obduracy, impenetrability, and unaccountability are manifestations of the materiality of the Old Law of the flesh and the materiality of the old math, with its reliance on the abacus or counter table. By contrast, Portia's eagerness to learn linked not only to the New Law of the spirit and of equity but to the new math of abstract ciphering, new techniques of accounting, and an ethic of Christian exactitude that would slowly come to define early modern England's culture of credit." (82)

Froes and Rebatos

"When starch was first introduced to England during the late sixteenth century, the work of starching was performed by craftswomen from the Netherlands and northern France who emigrated there to escape religious persecution, bringing sophisticated skills in luxury textile manufacture with them." (95)
"Devoid of any ostensible use-value, their only apparent function was to signify their wearers' ability to afford servants, avoid bodily exertion or exposure to the elements, and thereby announce their elite or would-be elite social status. From this perspective, ruffs are themselves complicit in our forgetting of the labor necessary to produce them. The layered irony of starched ruffs inheres in the fact that their very labor-obliterating form required the extraordinary and ongoing labor of women to be produced and maintained. AS such, they perfectly exemplify the cultural status of women's work as 'never done.' Unending and ever-present, the work of starching was continually placed under cultural erasure and thereby undone. As an icon of the Shakespearean stage, the starched ruff would further seem to epitomize the way in which the defining attribute of that stage as 'all-male' depends upon the erasure or forgetting of female labor that took place offstage or behind the scenes of theatrical production." (97)

fabrics and fabrication skills to make starched ruffs imported to England during Elizabeth's reign (103)

"By the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, these ornate head and neck-attires had become must-have fashion accessories for elite and would-be elite English women and came to feature prominently in plays and court masques. Immigrant tirewomen, starchwomen, silkwomen, spanglers, sempstresses, and laundresses, and eventually native women who learned their skills, played a crucial role in fabricating such attires for the stage." (107-8)
"The perceived threat posed by immigrant women's unregulated dissemination of skills was further exacerbated by the fact that they often lived together in small or large groups (termed 'spinster clusters' by historians), sometimes all working together in the same occupation." (114)

band/bond pun -- terms used interchangeably in the period; "underscores the material economy that links cloth bands and paper bonds or books, for as Ruffe reminds us, 'Bands, make rages; Rages make Paper; Paper makes Past-board, and Past-board makes Collar.'" (142) -- from Band, Ruffe, and Cuffe, short skit performed at Trinity College Cambridge, 1614-5; went through several printings

  • "As the title makes clear, the second edition continues the punning of the first, but with the particular aim of drawing analogies between printers of bands, cuffs, and ruffs and printers of bonds or books. The second edition is comapred to -- or rather, we are reminded, literally is -- secondhand linenware (paper made of linen rages) that has been 'newly dearned up' or made new by being stitched together with new, paratextual material." (142)
  • "The new material takes the form of prefatory verses voice by a female 'Jurie of Seamsters' (including Mistress Stitchewell) who offer 'their verdi[c]t upon Band, Ruffe, and Cuffe.' The jury finds that 'the Printer' of the first edition 'did Ruffe, Cuffe, Band wrong' because 'He spoiled them with his Inke.' The women promise to rectify this fault through their own labor by washing them clean: 'What though the Printer Ruffe, Cuffe, Band hath stayn'd?' they say, '[We'll] get it forth, or else let [us] be blam'd. / For all his black foule fingers never feare, / But that the Landresse . . can make them cleare.' Here, the work of the female laundress threatens to undo that of the male printer, rather than vice versa. Band, Ruffe, and Cuffe and its sequel blur the boundary between (female) printers of starched linen and (male) printers of linen paper: both desire that 'they still should stand in print.'" (142)

"to stand in print" -- meant both set type and arranging the pleats of a ruff; "pressing," "stitching," "setting"; compositor's "setting stick" like starcher's "poking stick"; "size" used to stiffin paper much like starch for stiffening ruffs

"Rather than constrasting the ephemeral prints left by female starchers to the permanence of those left by printers, Exchange Ware at the Second Hand insists on the ephemeral character of both: books are worn out and go out of style, and must be printed anew." ... In materially recollecting the labor of printing performed by starchers and sempsters, and its status as 'never done', Band, Ruffe, and Cuffee and Exchange Ware at the Second Hand position that labor as exemplary of the impermanence and reiterative character of print culture more generally." (143)

Cries and Oysterwives

"The female crier epitomized both: her raucous advertisements to theater audiences characterized her as both a low-status performer and a low-status worker, whose proximity to the stage rendered her a ready-to-hand foil against which the professional players might contrast their own skilled eloquence and newly elevated status." (145)
"Construed as sonic ciphers, at once present to the ear and absent to sight, the cries of female hawkers aptly figure the absent-presence of women's offstage work in the 'all-male' theaters." (145)
"The War of the Theaters was waged, I shall argue, not only through play texts but also through performance styles, in particular through the actor's voice and the register of sound. Competition from the children's companies, which satirized the adult players and their audiences as unrefined, prompted the adult companies to develop their own performance stylte and argue for its refinement. The boy-companies had a powerful weapon in this competition: their trained singing voices, together with the musical sophistication of their songs and the acoustic ambience of the indoor theaters, combined to produce a distinctive performance idiom defined largely through the medium of sound. Theadult companies were thereby forced to define and defence a distinctive vocal register of their own. I twas during this period that the vocalizations of street-criers, and of female criers in particular, became a convenient rhetorical weapon deployed in the poetomachia to stigmatize the productions of rival players or playwrights as vulgar, 'unworkmanly,' and amateurish. Having done so, however, the players also at times self-consciously appropriated the crier's vocal idiom, to both low-comic and high-tragic ends." (146)

Charles Hindley, History of the Cries of London (Ancient & Modern), 1884; antiquarian desire to connect with more oral earlier culture (148)

"Market women were thus perceived to be a direct threat to the prerogatives of guildsmen and their apprentices, who on several occasions during the 1590s attacked female hawkers during apprentice riots. As a result, it was female hawkers who were most often apprehended and fined by civic authorities." (149-150)

Watt 1991 claims survival rate of broadsheets is ~1/10,000

"Already popular on the Continent, printed cries first begand to be produced in England in the 1590s, initially by visiting engravers and then by native craftsmen who imitated them. More expensive than halfpenny or penny ballads, broadsheet cries cost in the range of sixpence and were consumed by 'the middling sort and those a little less propserous ..., which explains why [so] few have survived.' Along with ballads and other popular print forms, they served as inexpensive wall decorations, papering the walls of taverns, where they were also bought and sold." (150)
"In the early modern period, Gina Bloom has powerfully argued, vocal self-restraint was understoo to be a defining trait of dominant masculinity. Whereas the 'disorderly flow of voice from women's bodies served as an analogous symptom of the female body's extraordinarily porous boundaries,' men's ability to control their own voices through rhetorical training, and the voices of their subordinates through the exercise of authority, served as a signifier of manliness." (163)

Ophelia -- "weaves the tragic pathos of the boy-actor's lyrical voice together with the auditory register of the female crier. If Ophelia's wayward wandering and singing of old lauds are evocative of a crier of ballads, her importunate solicitations are reminiscent of the ubiquitous figure of the herb-wife." (171)

"The female 'Cries of London' represented in ballads, prints, and plays, far from being unmediated voicings of England's bygone, pre-industrial past as their antiquarian collectors would have it, were shaped by contemporary attitudes toward those who worked outside or on the fringes of the formal economy during a period of economic change and uncertainty. Scapegoated for economic problems like unemployment, inflation, and the perceived decay of 'legitimate' trades, female street-criers epitomized all that was antithetical to 'honest' work. Their cries sounded through the streets of the city as harbingers of the decline of guild control, the breakdown of market regulation, and the new forms of unlicensed commercial activity that mushroomed in the suburbs and liberties of the city." (173)

False Wares

"Because female virtue was strongly associated with chastity or sexual purity, women accused of manufacturing impure, adulterated, or defective wares were stigmatized as sexually unchaste or impure (or as aggressive usurpers of male authority) and were disciplined with the same forms of punishment used for prostitutes, adulteresses, and scolds." (177)
"The charge that players counterfeited legitimate trades often centered on their own trafficking in flase or evil wares. Stage properties were viewed by anti-theatrical writers as inherently false both because of their fictive status and because they were often actual counterfeits. From this perspective, theaters exemplified the vices of the marketplace, for they traded in wares that were not what they appeared to be." (181)
"If city comedies represented the growing metropolis as a crucible where gender identities were constantly being renegotiated, these identities were materially crafted through the staging of virtuous and vicious objects as well as subjects. In staging the contestation over the manufacture and sale of false wares, Jonson and Middleton sought to forge a new definition of civic masculinity to which the professional players and playwrights themselves might lay claim. They did so in part, I argue, by contrasting the workmanship of their own productions with the false wares or 'trash' produced and sold by market women." (183)