Staging the Henrician Court : The Merchant

This page last changed on Sep 14, 2009 by Eleanor Rycroft.

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'Who should afore us merchants accompted be?'

The Merchant is one of the most problematic charcaters in the Play of the Weather. Merry Report clearly mocks him, and there is something priggish about his character. His long speech to Jupiter asking for the right weather for his ships is persuasive while also being entirely class specific - ie he only asks for what would suit him and fellow merchants while deploying the langauge of the commonweal. It might be this that provides a clue to the Merchant's status. Perhaps for Heywood he represents those people between the ranks of gentry and artisan who deploy commonwealth discourse for their own ends. This might make the Merchant representative of members of the House of Commons and would tie in with Jupiter's reference to 'enormities' which is a possible reference to the tract, 'The Enormities of the Clergy' which claimed to be written by a member of Parliament.

There is also something in the Merchant's claim to be on the way to Syo which I have not fully understood. It maybe simply a reference to Chios - although this would suggest a long and very dangerous voyage. Is the Merchant simply boasting? Is he lying? Or is there a contemporary reference here that we are missing? If it were Syon then there would be a range of possibly Biblical references and also the possibility that the Merchant is ment to be seen as evangelical - but as things stand this would seem to be stretching the point.

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