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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: January ::
Purses
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0210  Tuesday, 27 January 2004

From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Jan 2004 12:42:07 -0500
Subject: 15.0194 Purses
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0194 Purses

 >I always thought that the tossing about of purses was a kind of gentle
 >hint to the stingy aristos who were enjoying the play how true noblemen
 >should behave. The carelessness of not counting what's in it is supposed
 >to display the "freedom" i.e. magnanimity of "true noblesse." Showing
 >all the best characters tossing about their purses to faithful or
 >valuable servants, however they further the plot, also demonstrated to
 >those wondering if they should leave the players a tip how to go about
 >it gracefully.

Clifford Stetner's observation points to the fact that early modern
domestic servants often depended on tips or "vails" to augment their
wages as they sought to save enough money to buy the 40-pound freehold
that would allow them to leave service and set up as independent
householders (typically, by combining the savings of a man and woman).
Feste - highly skilled at eliciting such gifts  - seems to have managed
to do this, since apparently he does not have permanent servant's status
in either Orsino's household or Olivia's.

David Evett

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