The Artisan in Elizabethan Literature

The Artisan in Elizabethan Literature

The Artisan in Elizabethan Literature

The Artisan in Elizabethan Literature

Excerpt

Attention in this essay is devoted to individuals and types rather than to organizations. For a complete understanding of the craftsman or craftswoman, however, brief mention must be made of the medieval and Renaissance guilds.

As may be seen from the bibliography, much has been written on the history of guilds. A few words, therefore, are all that need be said here of the craft guilds. Originating from the beginning of the 11th to the middle of the 13th century, the craft guilds attained their greatest power in the 14th and 15th centuries. Formed for self-defense against barons, they protected themselves not only by co-operation, but also by self-criticism, since defective workmanship or dishonest trading on the part of any members of the guild would injure the reputation of the rest.

In the 14th century the old idea of fraternity gradually died out, and the guilds became powerful commercial and civic organizations. Toward the end of the reign of Edward III were established the following merchant companies, called the twelve great livery companies: mercers, grocers, drapers, fishmongers, goldsmiths, skinners, merchant-tailors, haberdashers . . .

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