The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0735  Friday, 30 March 2001

From:           Ros King <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 26 Mar 2001 05:51:11 EST
Subject: 12.0710 Re: Feathers
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0710 Re: Feathers

T.W.Craik in the Tudor Interlude (p. 66) argues that feathers were
(unsurprisingly) used to denote frivolity and vanity. He cites the
character Vanity in Liberality and Prodigality:

For lo, thus round about in feathers dight
Doth plainely figure mine inconstancie,
As feathers, light of minde, of wit as light,
Subiected still to mutabilitie.
And for to paint me forth more properly,
Behold each feather decked gorgeously,
With colours strange in such varietie
As plainly pictures perfect Vanitie.

Similar ideas about feathers occur in Bartholowmew Fair, 5.1. passim,
but particularly the puppet Dionysius defending play acting against
antitheatrical bigotry:

"Or feather-makers in the Friars, that are of your faction of faith? are
not they with their perukes, anad their puffs, their fans, and their
huffs, as much pages of Pride, and waiters upon Vanity?"

The satirical point here is that Zeal of the Land Busy's nonconformist
congregation are likely to include those working for the Revels Office
wardrobe at Blackfriars as feather makers etc. This seems to be the same
joke that Steve Roth cites from Malcontent. Thus, pace John Dover
Wilson, feathers denote not tragic actors but the acting up the social
scale of vain imposters - in which section of society some people
(including, ironically enough, Hamlet at that point in the play), would
include actors.


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