“There is figures in all things"

October 27, 2015

An excerpt from an OUPblog article published on Saturday 24th October, authored by Andrew Zurcher, Fellow and Director of Studies at Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, and an editorial board member for Oxford Scholarly Editions Online.

"Young Cressingham, one of the witty contrivers of Thomas Middleton's and John Webster's comedy Anything for a Quiet Life (1621), faces a financial problem: his father is wasting his inheritance, and his new stepmother – a misogynistic caricature of the wayward, wicked woman – has decided to seize the family's wealth into her own hands, disinheriting her husband's children. Young Cressingham joins forces with another disgruntled and scanted son, Young Franklin, and together they undertake to reform their disordered parents. As the opening of the play makes clear, the greatest consequence of Sir Francis Cressingham's error in marrying a spoiled, spendthrift young woman of the court is that he has destroyed his public reputation for probity, sobriety, and good government – fatal to his credit, and thus his financial security: "Away!" Lord Beaufort rebukes Cressingham; "I am ashamed of your proceedings, / And seriously you have in this one act / Overthrown the reputation the world / Held of your wisdom." (Anything for a Quiet Life, 1. 1. 1-4) Young Cressingham must find a way, then, not only to restore his father's position and his own inheritance, but to convince public perception that his father's social and financial incompetence never occurred – in short, he must prove plausibly that his father was only pretending."

Discover more: Read the rest of this article on the OUPBlog

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