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Social and cultural issues Essay

“Hobson’s Choice is not only a comedy but it also deals with historical, social and cultural issues in the 19th Century.” “Some Plays are not only for humour, but provide a deeper meaning to enforce something else.” Plot Synopsis: This play takes place in Salford, near Manchester in 1880. Henry Horatio Hobson is a widower with three unmarried daughters. Lately they have become too ‘bumptious’ for his liking and he considers marrying the two younger ones, Alice and Vickey off. However, he does not consider marrying off the elder one, Maggie as he opines that she is no longer of marriageable age and she is useful in the shop. After Maggie is able to convince Willie – Hobson’s shoemaker to marry her, they set up their own business together selling shoes.

A month later we find that business at Hobson’s shop is slow and Maggie and Willie are about to get married. After the wedding it is revealed to the father Hobson that Alice and Vickey are to get married to Albert and Freddie, their two suitors. A year later business has drastically declined at Hobson’s shop and there is no trade coming in. Hobson becomes depressed and is hinting at committing suicide. A doctor diagnoses that he is suffering from chronic alcoholism and Willie and Maggie return to Hobson to keep an eye on him as advised by the doctor. Willie tells Hobson that he will only return if he and Hobson become partners, but Hobson will be only a sleeping partner without any influence and the shop will be renamed Mossop and Hobson. Willie is now in charge.

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Harold Brighouse was born on 26 July 1882 in Eccles, near Salford, Lancashire to John Brighouse a cotton merchant. His play superficially appears to be merely a comedy, but is actually a documentation of the social attitudes and historical cultures of that period. Henry Horatio Hobson is depicted as a middle – class patriotic Englishman. His name most probably alludes to the nationalistic spirit of his parents by naming him Henry after King Henry who defeated the French at the battle of Agincourt, and Horatio after Lord Nelson who defeated the French at Trafalgar. This patriotism is also evident towards the beginning of Act One:

HOBSON: I’m middle class and proud of it. I stand for common sense and sincerity. You forgot the majesty of trade and the unparalleled virtues of the British Constitution – which are all based on the sanity of the middle classes, combined with the diligence of the working classes. This is clear evidence of Hobson’s xenophobic attitude and his pertinent comments. He believes that only the British Constitution is correct and that all others are inferior. Another example of this attitude can be found in act four when the doctor consults Hobson: DOCTOR (Page 65): I’ll tell you nothing, sir. I don’t diagnose as my patients wish, but as my intellect and sagacity direct. Good morning to you.

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