Thursday Quotables: When Baking Gets You Summoned to Court

Thursday Quotables is a weekly meme hosted by Lisa of Bookshelf Fantasies that gives us the opportunity to showcase a great quote, line, or passage discovered during the past week, whether it made you laugh, cry, gasp, or awe-struck.

This week’s quote is a rather odd and amusing bit of history from the biographical book Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer.

We know that Susanna [Shakespeare] was in Stratford in 1606, the year before her marriage, because at Easter her name appeared on the list drawn up by the churchwardens and sidesmen of Holy Trinity as one of those who had not received the sacrament. … The offence was not considered trivial; if she had no excuse Susanna would have been fined a swingeing £20. … Susanna was summoned to attend the Vicar’s Court but when she appeared her case was dismissed. … Hamnet and Judith Sadler were also summoned, but did not appear. Hamnet was often in trouble for providing bread and cakes on a Sunday; as Sunday trading may have produced the bulk of his weekly takings, he may have preferred to be excommunicated rather than confess himself at fault. … On 13 January 1603 he appeared at the quarter sessions on a charge of baking contrary to the statute. …

Susanna could have just been a bad girl, like Joan Tante: ‘she useth not to stay in the church in service time and sermon time . . . going out of the church with beckoning of her finger and laughing . . .’ Joan seems to have been going through a bad patch; a few years later she was considered sufficiently deserving to be received into the almshouse. Elizabeth Wheeler wouldn’t go to church and was continually brawling and abusing her neighbours. In the Vicar’s Court, when questioned about her behaviour, she shouted, ‘God’s wounds! A plague upon you all! A fart of one’s arse for you!’

This photo sums up how I imagine Elizabeth Wheeler must have looked as she made this pronouncement:


It is unfathomable to me that people like Hamnet Sadler were singled out and given such a hefty fine for such a ridiculous offense as baking on a Sunday. Rules are meant to improve people’s lives, not worsen them! Any rule which oppresses people isn’t a very good one. Obviously there was a demand for Hamnet’s work: people (probably the ones who were afraid to bake) were hungry!

Joan and Elizabeth sound like rabble-rousers, but I do love the way Elizabeth “stuck it to the Man”! Haha!


2 thoughts on “Thursday Quotables: When Baking Gets You Summoned to Court

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