Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1094
Rose Otley, daughter of the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Roger Otley, and Rowland Lacey, nephew to Sir Hugh Lacy, the earl of Lincoln, are deeply in love. With evident irony, proud Sir Roger declares to Sir Hugh that he cannot presume to have his daughter marry above her station....
(The entire section contains 1094 words.)
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- Critical Essays
Rose Otley, daughter of the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Roger Otley, and Rowland Lacey, nephew to Sir Hugh Lacy, the earl of Lincoln, are deeply in love. With evident irony, proud Sir Roger declares to Sir Hugh that he cannot presume to have his daughter marry above her station. With equal pride, Sir Hugh ironically counters that because of Rowland’s dissolute ways it would be far better for Rose to marry a substantial young London businessman. Rowland, who toured Europe and learned the shoemaker’s trade in Germany, is given a command in the army of King Henry V, who is preparing to invade France. Sir Hugh wants Rowland off to France as soon as possible, so that the youth might forget Rose.
Rowland has other ideas. Claiming pressing business in London, he turns his command over to his cousin, Askew, after promising that he will join his unit in Normandy, if not in Dover. When the troops assemble to leave London, Simon Eyre, a shoemaker, pleads to no avail with Rowland to allow Rafe Damport, his drafted journeyman, to stay home with his new bride, Jane. Rafe, resigned to going to the wars, gives Jane as a farewell gift, a pair of shoes that he made for her.
Meanwhile Rose, confined to her father’s house at Old Ford, a London suburb, sends her maid Sybil into the city to seek information about Rowland. Determined to win Rose, Rowland disguises himself as a German shoemaker. Singing a German drinking song, he seeks work at Simon’s shop. When Simon refuses to consider hiring Rowland, Simon’s workmen, charmed by Rowland’s broken speech, threaten to leave. Rowland, as Hans Meulter, is taken on.
While hunting near Old Ford, Hammon and Warner, two London citizens, pursue a deer into the Lord Mayor’s estate. There they encounter Rose and her maid. Hammon falls in love with Rose and Warner loses his heart to Sybil. Sir Roger, welcoming the young hunters, decides that Hammon is just the man to marry Rose.
Rowland, through his friendship with a German sea captain, speculates in a valuable unclaimed ship’s cargo, to the enormous profit of Simon, his employer. As a result of this venture Simon is made an alderman, and the genial shoemaker seems destined for even greater city honors. Sir Hugh, meanwhile, learns from a servant that Rowland is not in France. Ashamed of his nephew, Sir Hugh sends the servant into the city to discover Rowland’s whereabouts.
When Hammon confesses his love, Rose at first dismisses him coyly; finally she declares that she intends to remain single. Even though Sir Roger threatens to force Rose into the match, the offended and impatient Hammon returns to the city. In London, Sir Hugh’s servant can learn nothing of Rowland’s whereabouts, even though he inquires at the shop of Simon.
Simon, grown affluent and popular, continues to advance upward in political rank. To the amusement of Simon’s journeymen, Firk and Hodge, his wife Margery assumes pretentious manners. Rafe, having been wounded in France, returns to London. Seeking his wife, he weeps to learn that Jane left the Eyre household, where she was a maid to Margery Eyre, and has not been seen since. The Eyres—Simon is now High Sheriff—visit Sir Roger at Old Ford, where Simon’s employees, Rowland among them, perform a morris dance. Rose recognizes Rowland in spite of his disguise and drinks a toast to him.
Jane, also grown quite independent because of her ability as a seamstress, is courted by Hammon. In his desperate attempt to seduce her, he shows her, to her disbelief, Rafe’s name on a casualty list from France. Sorrowfully, she promises Hammon that if she ever remarries she will accept his proposal. Rose, knowing of Rowland’s presence in the city, returns to her father’s town house and arranges to have Rowland see her on the pretext of fitting a pair of shoes. At the shoe shop, a servant brings in a shoe and orders that a pair of similar size be made in time for a wedding that is to occur the next day. Rafe recognizes the shoe as Jane’s; he learns from the servant where the ceremony is to take place.
Rowland, as a shoemaker, goes to see Rose and talks to her under the eyes of Sir Hugh, who is looking for his nephew, and Sir Roger, who declares to Sir Hugh that he did not see the young man. When Sybil reveals that Rose means to marry the German cobbler, Sir Hugh gloats, thinking that Rowland will never be able to marry this middle-class girl. Sir Roger, who secretly hoped that Rose would marry Sir Hugh’s nephew, is furious. At the same time Firk delivers a pair of shoes for Rose and misleads the two men into believing that Rose and the German cobbler will marry the next day at the church where Hammon and Jane plan to be married. Sir Hugh, to his alarm, suddenly realizes that the cobbler must be his nephew Rowland.
Simon, now Lord Mayor but still his lusty, simple self, declares his gratitude because Rowland helped him to affluence and promises that he will help the young people to become husband and wife. The next day Dame Eyre accompanies the young couple to the Savoy, while Rafe and his fellow shoemakers, armed with cudgels, encounter Hammon and Jane in front of St. Faith’s. Hammon resents the intrusion of the base craftsmen; Jane is filled with misgiving at the sight of Rafe, whom she believed dead. Hammon patronizingly offers Rafe twenty pounds to relinquish his claims to Jane. Rafe, insulted, would thrash Hammon, but he is prevented from doing so by his lameness. Expecting to apprehend Rose and Rowland, Sir Hugh and Sir Roger wait, too, in front of St. Faith’s. Word reaches them there that Rose and Rowland were married at the Savoy.
The Lord Mayor gives a breakfast for all London apprentices; he himself is served by men of his own craft. The king pardons Rowland and blesses him and Rose. When Sir Hugh and Sir Roger protest the match, the king explains that love is not a respecter of blood. To crown the festivities of Simon’s Lord Mayorship, the king grants the shoemakers the privilege of holding two market days a week in the newly built Leadenhall Market and accepts Simon’s invitation to him to be the guest of honor at a banquet.