Household Servants in Early Modern Domestic Tragedy considerably advances existing scholarship on the institution of service in early modern culture and as represented on the early modern stage. With its focus on the homes of the middling sorts, to whom the protagonists of domestic tragedy belong, the book expands our understanding of employer-servant relationships beyond elite and aristocratic circles, the focus of previous studies. Drawing on early modern advice literature, household guides, domestic manuals, sermons, treatises, proverbs, mothers’ legacies, funeral sermons, diaries, letters, and jest books as well as making use of the recent findings by social and cultural historians of early modern England, the book examines the consequences of disordered domesticity for the master-servant relationship. This study nuances the picture of domestic servants constructed by both early modern moralists and modern scholarship, arguing against overarching, reductive narratives. The book argues that the experience of household service as depicted in domestic tragedy, like in real life, was complex and varied and that there was no typical experience of service.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: ‘I will kill my master:’ Murderous Service in The Tragedy of Master Arden of Faversham
Chapter 2: ‘An honest knave:’ Servants in A Warning for Fair Women
Chapter 3: ‘Down goes the house of us:’ Serving the Dysfunctional Household in Thomas Middleton’s A Yorkshire Tragedy
Chapter 4: A ‘house in a sweet pickle:’ Servants and Disordered Domesticity in Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness
Iman Sheeha is Lecturer in Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature at Brunel University, London. Her research articles have appeared in Early Theatre, Early Modern Literary Studies, and American Notes and Queries. She is co-editing a special issue on liminal domestic spaces in early modern culture and literature for Early Modern Literary Studies.