Upon her arrival, Hobson then ingratiates himself and tries to get in Mrs Hepworths favour when he kneels on the floor and starts fondling her boots, as if he was stroking a cat and says “Yes, Mrs Hepworth. They look very nice”. Here audiences of the past and present would find this amusing because Hobson is not only a big man in terms of body proportion, but more importantly an important man being a shopkeeper and yet he is down on his knees like a shop assistant.
Audiences of the past and present would furthermore laugh at Mrs Hepworth’s reply in which she says, “Get up Hobson. You look ridiculous on the floor”. For audiences this would be humorous because it makes light of Hobson’s actions.Hobson makes more of a fool of himself when Mrs Hepworth asks, “Who made these boots?” and Hobson answers, “We did. Our own make”, not actually saying who made them but trying to take the credit nonetheless. Not content with his answer, Mrs Hepworth then ignores Hobson and turns to Maggie and says “Young woman, you seemed to have some sense when you served me. Can you answer me?” This would be amusing to audiences especially of the past, and of the present because she has turned away from the shopkeeper and is asking one of the workers. Moreover, during this part the roles are reversing and this would be humorous to audiences in the past because back then women had very little say in things.
In response to Mrs Hepworths question, Maggie then stamps on the floor and calls for Tubby, one of the boot hands, who appears from the trap door in the floor. Mrs Hepworth then inquires, “Man, did you make these boots?” This would be amusing to audiences past and present, especially audiences of the past because Mrs Hepworth has the total attention of the staff and is going all around the houses asking for who made her boots but is ignoring Hobson, the man in charge. This would furthermore, be amusing to audiences of the past because she is talking to lower class people, such as Tubby Wadlow who she would not usually give her time of day to. In those days, the real social divide existed between those who, in earning daily bread, dirtied their hands and face and those who did not.When Tubby says “They’re Willie’s making, those”, Mrs Hepworth demands “Then tell Willie I want him”. Hobson then makes more of a fool of himself when he supplies an assurance to Mrs Hepworth by saying “If there is anything wrong I assure you I’m capable of making the man suffer for it. I’ll-“. Here Hobson is trying to reinstate his position of authority which he feels has been lost while Mrs Hepworth has been talking to his staff.
However, unknown to him, Hobson has the wrong end of the stick and has misunderstood the situation, thus contradicting what is being said and making a fool of himself.Responding to Mrs Hepworths command, Willie then reluctantly comes up trap, like a rabbit out of its burrow. This scene would be amusing to audiences of the present because a dirty man rising out of a hole in the floor to people awaiting him above would be an amusing setup as it is not really something that is observed in modern day society. However, an audience of the past would react to this scene with acknowledgement, as it was a usual setup with the workers underneath the floor. Furthermore, this scene may also have been amusing to an audience of the past because of the way the actors are stood. As illustrated in the film version, they are all stood at different heights – reflecting the class difference between them. Mrs Hepworth is sat down like the queen while Hobson is stood in front of her and was earlier kneeling down, like a servant to her, while Willie is coming up from the floor, which shows that he is even lower – the lowest of the low.When Mrs Hepworth is greeted by Willie rising out of the trap door and she finds that it was him who made the boots, she gives him a visiting card and says, “Take that”.
She then says “See what’s on it?” and he answers “Writing?” not totally sure if it was writing or what it read. Mrs Hepworth then asks Willie to read it. Holding the card upside down, his lips move as he tries to spell it out and he replies, “I’m trying”. To this, Mrs Hepworth says, “Bless the man. Can’t you read?” A lot of people from audiences in the past may have sympathized with Willie because not everybody could read.
The literacy rate in those days was by far not as high as what it is today. Some members of the audience would be able to relate to him. However, audiences of the present may have found this humorous because most people can read and illiteracy within the population is not as common as what it was back then. A present audience would also have been amused that Willie was actually holding the card upside down, to an extent an audience of the past may have also found this amusing, but probably not as much.Mrs Hepworth then continues and goes on to say “What I heard about this shop brought me here for these boots. I’m particular about what I put on my feet”. At this stage Hobson, trying to make himself heard, makes a fool of himself again by saying “I assure you it shall not occur again, Mrs Hepworth”, this would illustrate to the audience that Hobson has misunderstood the situation.
To Hobson’s remark Mrs Hepworth asks “What shan’t” and Hobson, crestfallen is forced to reply, “I-I don’t know”. In a firm manner Mrs Hepworth replies to Hobson by saying, “Then hold your tongue”. This would have been amusing to audiences past and present because Hobson is trying to reassert his presence of being the master and the man in charge however, to his demise he has misunderstood the situation and therefore, ends up looking the fool again.Scene Two The next section of the play I will examine is Act One, pages 14 – 17. This is the scene where Maggie confronts Willie and tells him that he is the man for her and that they will also form a partnership. This section begins by Maggie raising up the trap door and shouting Willie to come up, which he does, reluctantly as he thinks he has done something wrong and he also feels awkward.Once he has come up from the cellar, Maggie takes Willie into the living room, a room in which he has never been in before, because being the boot hand he wouldn’t ever have been invited in there.
Watching the film version it is clear that Willie is uneasy as he stands, clutching his cap and looks around the room in an uncomfortable manner. Here an audience of the past would understand the apprehension in which Willie was feeling because in those days a man of Willies social stature, a working class person would not have mixed with people of the higher-class such as shopkeepers and their families.Once in the room Maggie says, “Show me your hands, Willie”. He holds his hands out reluctantly because they are dirty and he feels ashamed showing his dirty hands, which would be covered in cuts and blisters, to the master’s daughter, who would be comparatively spotless. Here an audience of the past would understand this situation of Willie’s uneasiness and they would be anticipant, wondering why she wanted to see his hands. Maggie then holds Willies hands and whilst doing this she says, “yes, they’re dirty, but they’re clever”. Here Maggie is showing affection but she is also praising him.
However, as soon as he gets the opportunity Willie drops his hands because he feels uncomfortable because in those days workers and mistresses would not have been intimate. An audience of the past would have known this and therefore there reaction would have been of understanding.Maggie then goes on to say “do you know what keeps this business on its legs? Two things: one’s good boots you make that sell themselves, the other’s the bad boots other people make and I sell”. Here Maggie is praising Willie.
He then praises her back by saying “You’re a wonder in the shop, Miss Maggie”. Maggie then praises Willie by saying “And you’re a marvel in the workshop” and then says “Well?” expecting Willie to reply.It is then clear that Willie is not on a parallel with Maggie’s thoughts, as he is confused and says “Well, what?” It is then clear that Maggie is still controlling the conversation because she says, “You’re leaving me to do the work, my lad”. Willie then gets uncomfortable and says, “I’ll be getting back to my stool, Miss Maggie” and moves towards the trap door. However, Maggie stops him and says, “You’ll go back when I’ve done with you”. An audience of the past would have laughed at this because here the woman is telling the man what to do.Looking into Willie’s eyes, Maggie then says, “I think you’ll do for me”. In a state of shock Willie sits down, mopping his brow and says, “I’m feeling queer-like.
What dost want me for?” Audiences past and present would have laughed at this type of role reversal. However, when Maggie says, “My brain and your hands ‘ull make a working partnership”, Willie is very relieved and stands up, smiling. He then repeats the word “partnership!” in a more relieved voice and says in amusing style “Oh, that’s a different thing.I thought you were asking me to wed you”. However, Maggie replies, “I am”.
An audience of the past would have laughed at this because the woman is asking the man and furthermore, the man is getting in a confused and disturbed state. An audience of the present would also have enjoyed this but instead because Willie is the labourer and Maggie is the masters daughter. A present audience would also be highly amused at the way Willie has got in a confused state.Over these past few lines Willie has gone from shock to relief to shock.
His joy at when he thought Maggie just wanted a partnership and not marriage was short lived, it wasn’t what he thought it was. Audiences of both past and present would have found this amusing because of the way the poor man has got confused. Willie then says “Well, by gum!” in shock and amazement. This actual expression would have been humorous to audiences past and present because it is an expression, which illustrates how surprised and taken back he was. Also, the word itself sounds amusing and it is the sort of word that a person like Willie in that era would have used.