By David Evett (auth.)
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Additional info for Discourses of Service in Shakespeare’s England
He thus explores a set of discourses that are psychosocial and literary rather than economic—the sinner’s, the victim’s, the revenger’s, the hero’s, and the donor’s (note the moral disposition of these terms); the drama’s interest in differences rather than similarities among its characters means that two or more versions of each type typically occur in the same play. Another way of saying this is to note that a dramatic figure, such as Cornwall’s nameless assailant, can be at once servant, hero, revenger, donor, and victim.
20 Such an agreement seems to bond Lancelot Gobbo to Shylock. He tells us that he longs to quit his master, but feels guilty about it. Soon, however, we learn that he has evidently worked for Shylock long enough that his master is ready to see him go. The grounds for Lancelot’s transfer are not clear; Bassanio tells him that “Shylock thy master . . 140–41), but the language could imply either that Shylock has transferred Lancelot’s indenture to his new master, or that because Lancelot’s term of service has expired, he is legally if not psychologically free to move, and Shylock has recommended him.
23 Indeed, the conflict between Oswald and his fellows on the one hand, and Lear’s followers on the other, may be interpreted as an evolutionary clash between two types of household. Lear’s, like the Lord’s in The Taming of the Shrew, is an old-fashioned one in which social distinctions tend to be submerged in shared military or agricultural or commercial or social activities. Of these, the most distinctive is the household dinner, with everyone from master to potboy gathered in the hall, sharing whatever food, drink, and entertainment is available.