Hobson's Choice

by Harold Brighouse

Fall 1997

Although the play's references to Shakespeare's King Lear are too obvious to be ignored, the play's comic heart asserts itself throughout. This play is loved because of its warmth and directness. The characters have a rough and ready honest edge that makes them endearing, and if their foibles are sometimes destructive, that only serves to make the play's resolution all the more satisfying. The title Hobson's Choice is an old saying that means "no choice at all." It arises from the habit of a Cambridge carrier, Thomas Hobson, who at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries supplied horses to the students and staff of the university. They could have any horse they liked, so long as it was the one next to the door! As the play draws to a close, it seems everyone in the room except Henry Hobson can see how appropriately named he is. As he wriggles around trying to escape, we can smile in recognition at his folly; how stubborn we mortals are!