The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2067  Thursday, 30 August 2001

From:           Frank Whigham <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 27 Aug 2001 08:06:07 -0500
Subject: 12.2029 Carrying Weapons
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2029 Carrying Weapons

In Arden of Faversham, the lead character forcibly removes a sword from
his erotic rival Mosby, a former botcher (repairer of used clothing) now
elevated by a noble patron (the Lord Clifford) to more elite status. The
stage direction tells us,

Then Arden draws forth Mosby's sword (i.309 s.d.).

So, sirrah, you may not wear a sword.
The statute makes against artificers,
I warrant that I do. Now use your bodkin,
Your Spanish needle, and your pressing iron,
For this [sword] shall go with me.

From what I was able to discover in writing Seizures of the Will, I
wrote the following note:

"This prohibition appears to derive from the famous sumptuary statute of
37 Edward III, c. 9 (1363), which forbad "People of Handicraft, and
Yeomen" to wear "Stone, nor Cloth of Silk nor of Silver, nor Girdle,
[Knife, Button,] Ring, Garter, nor Owche, Ribband, Chains, nor no such
other Things of Gold nor of Silver," along with much else (brackets in
original). There is no direct reference to swords. (Cited from Statutes
of the Realm.) For analysis of such legislation and its changing
afterlife in royal proclamations during the Tudor period, see Whigham,
Ambition and Privilege 155-69."

This statutory text suggests inter alia that such weaponry was classed
as a decorative or semiotic device, at least for the purposes of the
statute's aim. Later limitations on armed retainers may contain more in
the way of "check your guns at the door" practicalities.

Frank Whigham

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