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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Hedge-Priest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0595  Wednesday, 31 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Kevin J. Donovan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 10:21:18 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

[2]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 11:37:49 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 12:56:40 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

[4]     From:   Anthony Burton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 12:41:46 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

[5]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 13:49:51 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

[6]     From:   Ros King <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 10:49:29 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a hedg

[7]     From:   Alan Somerset <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 10:13:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kevin J. Donovan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 10:21:18 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

My old edition of Brewer's gives the following entry for hedge priest:
"A poor or vagabond parson.  The use of hedge for vagabond, or very
inferior, is common; as hedge-mustard, hedge-writer (a Grubb Street
author), hedge-marriage (a clandestine one), etc.  Shakespeare uses the
phrase, 'hedge-born swain' as the opposite of 'gentle blood.' (1 Henry
VI., iv.  1)."

Kevin Donovan 
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English Department, Middle Tennessee State University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 11:37:49 EST
Subject: 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

>We need a theologically-minded historian for this one.  Shakespeare has
>a hedge-priest in Two Gents, giving the impression that they were rural,
>incompetent, and perhaps illiterate; and I was wondering if Sir Oliver
>Martext was one.  Why is he lesser nobility?  And why "hedge-PRIEST"?
>My OED is at home and I am at the office at the moment, but someone on
>the list should be able to give us the benefit of specific knowledge.

A hedge-priest, according to the OED, is one that is illiterate,
uneducated, or of inferior status (a term of contempt). Sir Oliver would
apparently qualify.

Carol Barton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 12:56:40 -0500
Subject: 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

Roy Flanagan wrote:

>We need a theologically-minded historian for this one.  Shakespeare has
>a hedge-priest in Two Gents, giving the impression that they were rural,
>incompetent, and perhaps illiterate; and I was wondering if Sir Oliver
>Martext was one.  Why is he lesser nobility?  And why "hedge-PRIEST"?
>My OED is at home and I am at the office at the moment, but someone on
>the list should be able to give us the benefit of specific knowledge.

I fervently deny any theological bent and I'm not an historian; but I
believe it is likely that Oliver Martext is intended to be a hedge
priest.  The counterfeit Sir Topas in TN also seems to be of this
species.  I also don't think Sir Oliver was lesser nobility.  The "Sir"
was probably a routine honorific for such as person, as in Sir Topas.

I think a hedge priest was an itinerant preacher without a fixed living
(no vicarage to call his own), and so dependent on what he could collect
for occasional services, like marriage ceremonies, and sometimes forced
to sleep under hedges.  I also am under the impression that such persons
were generally regarded as having little learning and their
qualifications to hold themselves out as real priests were often
suspect.  Hence, the jokes in AYLI about Martext's proposed marriage of
Touchstone and Audrey being nonbinding.

By the way, has anyone noticed a correspondence between  "Martext" and
Marprelate?  Is there a deeper joke here?

Larry Weiss

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anthony Burton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 12:41:46 -0800
Subject: 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

Okay, I have an OED at hand.  Hedge priest is an illiterate or
uneducated priest of inferior status. A reference to "hedge" sb 8  gives
among other meanings, "clandestine," "inferior," and cites "hedge Curat,
-chaplain, -doctor, -parson, and even -whore, perhaps reflecting the
original high professional standards of an occupation now under intense
competitive pressure from amateurs.   Perhaps you can work
"hedge-scholar" into a cocktail party sometime soon.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Mar 1999 13:49:51 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

More speculation: (what I am not allowed to do in grad school papers, I
indulge in here) Like Chaucer's Parson, he visits the ferrest in his
parish much and lite on his feet and in his hand a staff.  Perhaps he
then preaches across the hedges of his parishioners who haven't the
wherewithal (or piety) to attend church. Clerical house calls, as it
were, with hedges for altars.

Clifford Stetner

p.s. could someone forward me the two recent posts concerning allegory
by Brian Haylett and a respondent?  I deleted them, but wish to respond.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ros King <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 10:49:29 +0000
Subject: 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a hedg
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a hedg

'Sir' was a courtesy title afforded to priests and does not indicate a
baronet or knight.

Hedge priest according to OED means a priest who is illiterate although
it strikes me that it might also indicate non-conformity - a preacher
who gathers a congregation together in the sight of God under a tree.
The latter would inevitably be disparaged as the former. The name Sir
Oliver Martext glances at the Martin Marprelate pamphlets attacking the
excess luxury of the bishops of the newly established Church of England.

Best wishes

Ros
Ros King
School of English and Drama
Queen Mary and Westfield College
University of London

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Somerset <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 10:13:00 -0500
Subject: 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0586 Speaking of hedges, what exactly is a
hedge-priest?

"Sir" was a normal appellation for a priest in the sixteenth century,
and need not imply knighthood-"Father" is a modern equivalent, and
carries no implication of parenthood!  A "hedge-priest" was, I believe,
an unbeneficed priest, not licenced to preach, but capable because of
ordination to perform legal marriages, etc.

Alan Somerset
 

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