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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 216

Jack of Newbery is a book written by Thomas Deloney in the 1590s. Your write-up of the story will likely focus on the titular character’s time as an apprentice weaver, and what occurs after that point.

The story follows Jack as he weds the wife of his master after he...

(The entire section contains 1422 words.)

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Jack of Newbery is a book written by Thomas Deloney in the 1590s. Your write-up of the story will likely focus on the titular character’s time as an apprentice weaver, and what occurs after that point.

The story follows Jack as he weds the wife of his master after he dies. This is done in a comical way since the woman initially just asks Jack for advice, including about a man she met and how to get him to marry her. The man, of course, turns out to be Jack himself.

He takes over her cloth business and even helps it to expand and thrive. He does so well that Henry VIII actually offers to knight him, though he declines. There is a part that focuses on the marriage, since there is some awkwardness due to the fact that Jack used to be the servant of the woman he married—but now he is in charge, as the man in the marriage. It’s resolved, however, and it is smooth sailing for a while until the woman dies and Jack eventually remarries.

There are also many side stories about the antics of Jack’s workers, such as a woman named Joan, who helps to trick an Italian man into going to bed with a pig.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1206

In the days of King Henry VIII, there lives in the English town of Newbery a young weaver named Jack Winchcomb. As a young man he is something of a prodigal, spending as much as he makes and having a reputation as a merry young fellow; he is known in all the county of Berkshire as Jack of Newbery. After his master dies, however, Jack changes his ways. His mistress, who acquires a fondness for the young man, entrusts to him the entirety of her husband’s business. Jack becomes a careful man, both with his mistress’s affairs and with his own, and he soon loses his reputation for prodigality. In its place, he acquires a reputation as an honest, hard-working, and intelligent businessman.

His mistress thinks so highly of Jack that she even makes him an adviser in affairs of the heart. His advice is of little value to her, however, for she makes up her mind, despite the difference in their years, to marry Jack. She tricks him into agreeing to further her marriage with an unknown suitor. When they arrive at the church, Jack finds that he is to be the bridegroom; thus Jack becomes her husband and the master of her house and business.

The marriage goes none too smoothly at first; despite her love for Jack, the woman does not like to be ordered about by the man who was once her servant. At last, however, they come to an understanding and live happily for several years, after which interval the good woman dies, leaving Jack master of the business and rich in the world’s goods.

Not long after his first wife dies, Jack remarries, this time to a young woman. The wife is a poor choice, although he has the pick of the wealthy women of his class in the county. Not many months pass after the marriage, which was a costly one, before James, the king of Scotland, invades England while King Henry is in France. The justices of the county call upon Jack to furnish six men-at-arms to join the army raised by Queen Catherine. Jack chooses to raise a company of a hundred and fifty foot and horse, which he arms and dresses at his own expense in distinctive liveries. Jack rides at the head of his men. Queen Catherine is greatly pleased and thanks Jack personally for his efforts, although his men are not needed to achieve the English victory at Flodden Field. In reward for his services, Jack receives a chain of gold from the hands of the queen herself.

In the tenth year of his reign, King Henry makes a trip through Berkshire. Jack introduces himself in a witty way to the king as the Prince of the Ants, who is at war with the Butterflies, a sally against Cardinal Wolsey. The king is vastly pleased and betakes himself to Newbery, along with his train, where all are entertained by Jack at a fabulous banquet. After the banquet, the king views the weaving rooms and warehouses Jack owns. Upon his departure, the king wishes to make Jack a knight, but the weaver refuses the honor, saying he would rather be a common man and die, as he lived, a clothier.

In his house, Jack of Newbery has a series of fifteen paintings, all denoting great men whose fathers were tradesmen of one kind or another, including a portrait of Marcus Aurelius, who was a clothier’s son. Jack keeps the pictures and shows them to his friends and workmen in an effort to encourage one and all to seek fame and dignity in spite of their humble offices in life.

Because of the many wars in Europe during King Henry’s reign, trade in general is depleted. The lot of the clothiers and weavers is particularly bad; they join together and send leaders to London to appeal to the government on their behalf. One of the envoys they send is Jack. The king remembers Jack and in private audience assures him that measures will be taken to alleviate the hardships of the clothiers. Another man who did not forget Jack is the Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey. In an attempt to circumvent the king’s promise, he has Jack and the other envoys thrown into prison for a few days. Finally, the duke of Somerset intervenes and convinces the cardinal that the clothiers mean no harm.

Some time later, an Italian merchant named Benedick comes to the house of Jack to trade. While there, he falls in love with one of Jack’s workers, a pretty young woman named Joan. She, however, pays no attention whatever to Benedick and asks a kinsman to tell the Italian not to bother her. When the kinsman does as he is asked, he angers the Italian, who vows to make a cuckold of the kinsman for his pains. With gifts and fair speech, the Italian finally has his way with the weaver’s wife, although the woman is immediately sorry. She tells her husband, who has his revenge on the Italian by pretending that he will see to it that the Italian is permitted to go to bed with Joan. The Italian falls in with the scheme and finds himself put to bed with a pig, whereupon all the Englishmen laugh at him so heartily that he leaves Newbery in shame.

Jack’s second wife is a good young woman, but she sometimes errs in paying too much attention to her gossipy friends. At one time, a friend tells her that she is wasting money by feeding the workmen so well. She cuts down on the quantity and the quality of the food she serves to the workers, but Jack, who remembers only too well the days when he was an apprentice and journeyman forced to eat whatever was placed in front of him, becomes very angry and makes her change her ways again. His workers are gratified when he says that his wife’s friend is never to set foot in his house again.

At another time, Jack goes to London, where he finds a draper who owes him five hundred pounds working as a porter. Learning that the man, through no fault of his own, is bankrupt, Jack shows his confidence in the man by setting him up in business again. Friends warn him that he is sending good money after bad, but Jack’s judgment proves correct. The man pays back every cent and later becomes an alderman of London.

Jack is always proud of his workers. One time a knight, Sir George Rigley, seduces a pretty and intelligent young woman who works for Jack. Jack vows that he will make it right for her. He sends the woman, disguised as a rich widow, to London. Not knowing who she is, Sir George falls in love and marries her. The knight is angry at first, but he soon sees the justice of the case and is very well pleased with the hundred pounds Jack gives the woman as a dower. Still knowing their places in life, Jack and his wife give precedence to Sir George and his new lady, even in their own house.

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