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Harold Brighouse, the author of Hobson’s Choice was born in 1882 in Eccles, near Salford Lancashire; where the play is set. Hobson’s Choice was first written in 1914-1915. This is when it was originally supposed to be set. The out-break of war in 1914 meant that Brighouse had to change the time setting of the play. He changed it to 1880, which he later considered added to the play’s depth. As Hobson’s Choice is a comedy, showing it in 1916, created a lighter, relaxed atmosphere in the theatre world. People could go to the theatre and laugh. Hobson’s Choice was an escapism from the battling society.
One of the strongest characters in the play is Maggie. For the time it was set, a strong, female protagonist was quite unusual. This represents the changing role of women, which adds to the comedy and also defies expectations. Harold Brighouse included this strong female because his mother was also very strong minded. Before her marriage, his mother had been a headmistress. His parent’s marriage in 1881 broke the conventions of the time, for John Brighouse had previously been married to his second wife’s sister; as a result, until the law was later changed, Harold and his sister Hilda were technically illegitimate. As this defies the traditional laws, this is shown in the play. Maggie breaks the traditional ways, which Vickey and Alice play, which develops into comedy.
I think Brighouse wrote the play to celebrate his cultural background and his roots, which is Salford and the people that love there. I also think that as a result of this, Brighouse feels a connection with the different characters and personalities that he has created. This is one of the reasons that the characters jump of the page and are very 3 dimensional. These characters are almost based on real-life people but with a bit of extra motivation. Another reason is that we can all relate to characters in the play. We all know a business-minded, pushy woman and an egotistic, arrogant, chubby man. This is because this play is Brighouse’s personal interpretation of his own society.
The interplay and the relationships of the characters create the comedy. Without these good or bad relationships the play and the other characters wouldn’t progress. We see one of these comical relationships when Maggie confronts Albert Prosser in the Hobson’s. Maggie knows the real reason as to why he is here but her business-minded, pushy attitude gets the better of Albert e.g. ALBERT ‘Oh no, I really don’t want to buy them. MAGGIE (pushing him): Sit down Mr Prosser. You can’t go through the streets in odd boots.’
This forcefulness of a woman against a man, combined with Albert’s fear of Maggie, creates comedy. The image of this dominant, assertive woman scaring a full-grown man and forcing him into doing something that he has no intention of doing is a comical relationship, which depicts Maggie’s character. We see Maggie carry out these features throughout the play. Another scene that we perceive this is when Maggie asks, or rather tells Willie that the two of them will marry e.g.
MAGGIE ‘You’ll do for me.
Maggie is again pushing a man into doing something he really doesn’t want to go through with. Her intentions are not there to be disturbed and doing what she wants adds to Maggie’s improbable character. This treatment of Willie and the language that they both use creates comedy. Maggie refers to Willie as a ‘business idea in the shape of a man.’ Willie, himself also believes that he is an object that can’t defend itself rather than an able man e.g. WILLIE ‘She’ll have me from you if you don’t be careful’.
This weak attitude from Willie increases the comical severity of Maggie’s marriage proposal. The arrogance of Hobson is shown in many ways throughout the play such as the way Hobson degrades his loyal customer Mrs. Hepworth immediately after he had been complimenting and respecting her. However occasionally when he comes off arrogant he is really making a fool of himself e.g. HOBSON ‘I’ll have less uppishness from you or else I’ll shove you off my hands on to some other men. You can choose which way you like MAGGIE One o’clock dinner, father.’