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The play Hobson’s choice is set in Salford near Manchester in the north of England, in the 1880s. This scene takes place in the boot shop, which Hobson owns, he has four daughters the eldest is Maggie she pretty much runs the shop as Hobson, since his wife died, has turned into an alcoholic. The scene starts with Maggie saying “Dinner at half past one girls, We’ll give him half an hour” this looks as if Hobson has gone to the pub but Maggie has told him that lunch is at One but he says its not. So Maggie appeases and says its at half one.
From the words “We’ll give him half an hour” it seems as if this argument is a regular occurrence. Maggie then proceeds to order Willie, a cobbler at the shop, up from the cellar/workshop this shows that Maggie is the boss which is unusual in the Victorians hierarchy style class structure. Willie would probably think at this point that he has done something wrong as workman where expected to stay in the workshop. The stage directions say that he stops halfway up the stairs meaning Maggie would be looking down on him as if to tell him off.
Maggie then gives him another order “Come up, and put the trapdoor down” this again shows Maggie’s dominance this would come through on stage. The stage directions then say “He (Willie) comes reluctantly” Willie would be thinking the worst at the moment the actor would show this with body language and facial expressions. Willie try’s to make an excuse to leave ” we’re very busy in the cellar” Maggie doesn’t say anything she just points at the trap, Willie closes it.
This shows although not conventional in Victorian society Willie is used to taking orders from a woman. “Show me your hands” is Maggie’s next request/order. He makes an excuse, “their Dirty”, but still complies as if he can’t deny Maggie’s order. Willie is still very nervous Maggie would be able to see this but has yet done nothing to reassure him showing that Maggie enjoys having power over Willie. Maggie then pays him a complement “yes there dirty but there clever they can shape leather like no other mans that came into this shop”.
She asks him where he learnt his trade, here he replies, she refuses his answer saying, “Hobsons never taught you to make boots the way you do” Willie insists his answer is true. Maggie gives him another compliment ” you’re a natural born genius at making boots” but then insults him “it’s a pity you’re a natural fool at all else” this might be because she finds it hard for herself to compliment someone who she might see as below her. Willie is starting to feel a bit more confident that he’s not in trouble but then Maggie asks him when he gonna leave Hobsons?
Willie must now think he’s got the sack this would show on stage as he stutters out “leave Hobsons I – I thought I gave satisfaction” Maggie doesn’t answer his question but throws another question back at him another proof that she enjoys the power balance between her and Willie. Willie says he is not leaving Hobson’s until he is rich Maggie again calls him a fool but Willie replies with ” then I’m a loyal fool” showing that loyalty is important to Willie.