The Shoemaker's Holiday

A Summary

Setting the Stage

Citizen Comedy: Genre

Life of Thomas Dekker

Times of Thomas Dekker

The Shoemaker's Holiday

Play Excerpt

Close Reading


The Shoemaker’s Holiday was written in 1599 by the English citizen playwright, Thomas Dekker, “For centuries Thomas Dekker has been praised, sometimes lavishly, for The Shoemakers’ Holiday as a romantic comedy, the first important play about Elizabethan citizen life (Kinney 10).”  The plot revolves around the unrequited love of two youths from different social strata.  Nobleman Rowland Lacy refuses his assignment to go to war with the French.  He takes on the disguise of Hans the shoemaker in order to gain access to Rose Oatley, his love of a lower class.  In the meantime, Simon Eyre, the true Shoemaker in all this, rises to the position of Lord Mayor with little to no friction in the process.

When Lacy disguises himself as a Dutch journeyman under Eyre, he gains access to citizen life.  All the journeymen live in Eyre’s house, eat his food, and function as a family.  Firk is also a journeyman and the practical joker of the play, standing up to Eyre and encouraging him to hire Lacy in the first place.  Firk’s disregard for authority remains consistent through the play and peaks when he distracts Lacy’s uncle so the lovebirds can wed in secret.

The play is framed by the mention of war in the opening and ending.  War also serves as an ominous backdrop considering Lacy went MIA, but the play retains a comedic tone nonetheless.  Economic barriers are broken throughout the play, which is especially apparent when the King is invited to a Shrove Tuesday dinner at Eyre, the former shoemaker’s, table.  Fantasy and reality blur, giving the plot a surreal quality that would be appealing as a holiday play: wishes come true and hopes are fulfilled.  However, realities do not completely disappear in this drama, “they keep returning, unexpectedly, to interrupt, trouble, and question any easy reading that would entertain by way of ignorance or innocence the real cost of social mobility and fluidity that is necessary in a class-ridden society (Kinney 10).”

Thomas Dekker wrote a drama for the citizens of London, and incorporated social issues and ideas that citizens would be interested in.