The article on ‘Master Thrifty’ explores his character in The Humorous Magistrate, and places him as a JP within the context of the magistracy of the English West Midlands c 1640. The essay accounts for author John Newdigate’s description of Thrifty, and the ways in which he portrays Thrifty’s interaction with his clerk Mr Parchment, and other characters with whom he interacts in his judicial capacity. The larger vision of the essay is to explain how JPs and legal officials were viewed in English society generationally from the late sixteenth to the mid seventeenth century, and how the play would have been ‘read’ by viewers in the years of 1639-42. I place the play within this contemporary context, and conclude with an assessment of how and why Newdigate — sympathetic to the growing law reform movement — used this entertaining format to question the state of magistracy in these years.

Author Biography

Louis Knafla is professor emeritus of History at the University of Calgary. His major field is legal history, spanning the common law world from England to Canada and Australia. Past-President of the Canadian Law and Society Association (1995-96, 2001-2), and Editor of Criminal Justice History (1984-2004), he has created cutting-edge research projects in early modern English and western Canadian legal history, and contributed actively to the development of legal history through professional associations, journals, archives, research and writing, peer review, graduate and undergraduate teaching, and academic and public speaking. He is the author-editor of sixteen academic monographs, thirty-four major articles/book chapters, and sixty-eight shorter articles. Recent work includes Kent at Law, 1602; The County Jurisdiction: Assizes and Sessions of the Peace (2009); 'The Geographical, Jurisdictional and Jurisprudential Boundaries of English Litigation in the Early Seventeenth Century' (2005); and 'Mr. Secretary Donne: The Years with Sir Thomas Egerton' (2003).