Parodic Wit and Social Satire in Chapman, Jonson, and Marston's Eastward Ho! [with illustration]



The double plot of Eastward Ho! offers both a parody of such forms as Protestant conversion narratives and citizen dramas and a carefully observed social satire in which pious citizens and upwardly-mobile prodigals comment critically on each other's values. In contrast to readings based on contemporary discourse about credit or mercantile enterprise that argue for or against Touchstone or Quicksilver as the play's heroes, I contend that it maintains our detachment from rogues and righteous alike, exposing bourgeois piety, grasping avarice, and courtly folly to searching ironies. Viewing parody in Bakhtinian terms as commentary on “another's socially typical . . . manner of observing, thinking, and speaking,” I read Touchstone, Golding, and Mildred's speeches as subtly exaggerated versions of the thought-patterns reflected in bourgeois handbooks like Robert Cleaver's A Godlie Forme of Householde Government. Quicksilver, Gertrude, and Sir Petronel, on the other hand, exemplify the freer spending and freer morals encouraged in some aristocratic circles. The prodigals' Virginian voyage does not celebrate commercial risk-taking but satirizes delusionary promises of new-world wealth, while their mutual betrayal contradicts claims about their festive sociability. Although the authors point up the performative nature of Quicksilver's mock repentance, they refuse to valorize his amoral wit, withholding sympathetic identification and allowing him neither a sexual nor a financial victory. The play thus neatly balances satire on the gospel of work at the heart of City ideology and on the courtly culture of ambitious intrigue, self-display, and sexual license. (W.D.K.)