[Milton-L] query about fairies and ale

Tom Bishop t.bishop at auckland.ac.nz
Sun Feb 25 16:44:15 EST 2007


Dear Beth,
On Puritans and ale-drinking, it's worth recalling, as I'm sure you  
do, that the sect had an early reputation for hypocritical gluttony,  
in contrast to their general insistence on temperance. Recall Busy's  
large consumption of Ursula's tipple in Bartholomew Fair, for  
instance, or the Puritan gossips in A Chaste Maid in Cheapside  
(though they seem to be drinking wine). Whether Puritans were often  
associated with the "lesser" beverages in the period, or whether this  
is a new move, I do not know.  Disparagement of "private ale" for its  
disgusting character (does the wonderful word "lantantical" here mean  
that it stimulates urine or that it has urine in it, or both?) goes  
back at least to "The Tunning of Eleanor Rumming", which your student  
might like to look at, though it has nothing to do with Puritans,  
who, I agree with others, seem to be here being associated with the  
non-aristocrat classes (recall Prince Hal's disdain alike for Poins  
and for "small beer" in the Boar's Head of 2H4 2.4 -- one of  
Falstaff's more amusing touches seems to be his habitual penchant for  
"sack" rather than beer -- it may be in part a class-conscious  
gesture of his decaying knightship: "What ME, drink beer?!")

Tom


On 26/02/2007, at 3:15 AM, quitslun at ohio.edu wrote:

> Dear Colleagues,
>
> No, this is not a contribution to the much-raveled "queer Milton"  
> thread. One
> of my graduate students came to me with a question about a speech  
> from _The
> Masque at Coleorton_ that I couldn't answer. (It doesn't help that  
> I haven't
> read the whole text, of course, but we'll leave that.) The speech  
> in question
> is this, from a dialogue between a couple of fairies:
>
> BOB. True, Puck, housekeeping is a rag of Rome; 'tis abolished. All  
> good
> fellowship, called feasting, is turned to a dish of Bibles. The  
> country mirth
> and pastime, that's Pontius Pilate, dead and buried. Entertainment— 
> that's now
> a fooling please for every swabber. [
> ] This new sect, in sincerity, 'tis a
> dry one, and a plaguey soaker of the buttery; truly, if e'er they  
> drink,
> drunk 'tis with ale and in private—-ale, that turdy, dirty, nasty,  
> pissy,
> farty, lantitantical liquor. A drink devised by Puritans and  
> pettifoggers to
> settle the spittle of their palates that their tongues may yet run  
> more at
> liberty. That villainous drench has been the bane of the buttery.
>
> What she wanted to know, and I couldn't answer is what exactly we  
> are supposed
> to make of the disparagement of ale. Is it that it's not wine? If  
> the rather
> wonderful series of pejoratives were attributed to the Puritans as  
> evidence of
> their hypocrisy, I would understand, but Bob then seems to  
> associate ale with
> Puritans as opposed to good hearty country people.
>
> I feel like an idiot--can anyone help me out here?
>
> thanks,
> Beth
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