Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Folger Exhibitions
• Past Exhibitions
Now Thrive the Armorers
To See a Good Armor

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

To See a Good Armor

The Armorer's Craft In Shakespeare's Day

Hartmann Schopper. Panoplia omnium illiberalium mechanicarum aut sedentariarum artium genera continens. Frankfurt, 1568

Jan van der Straet. Nova reperta. Engraving, ca. 1600

I have known when there was no music with him but the drum and the fife, and now had he rather hear the tabor and the pipe; I have known when he would have walked ten mile afoot to see a good armor, and now will he lie ten nights awake, carving the fashion of a new doublet.

Much Ado About Nothing (Act II, scene 3)


By Shakespeare’s day, the medieval craft of armor-making had become a modern industry. Governments engaged contractors who promised to deliver the equipment, and the contractors tapped a network of smaller suppliers to make up the thousands of orders it took to supply an army. The iron came from continual-production blast furnaces that melted iron ore to extract the metal. The iron was hammered into flat sheets by water-powered triphammers, manned by low-paid laborers. At the end of the process, the armor was finished with water-powered grinding and polishing wheels.


Despite these advances, the central stage of armor production remained very much a craft. The armorer trained for about seven years as an apprentice, learning the subtle art of shaping steel to accommodate the complex shapes and motions of the human body. The final product had to be strong enough to resist battlefield damage, flexible enough to allow almost total freedom of movement, and stylish enough to meet the tastes of fashion-conscious Elizabethans.


Next »

Dressed to Kill

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623