The Roaring Girl
  • Publication Date: August 8, 2019
  • ISBN: 9781554812134 / 1554812135
  • 222 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Roaring Girl

  • Publication Date: August 8, 2019
  • ISBN: 9781554812134 / 1554812135
  • 222 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The titular “Roaring Girl” of Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s comedy is Moll Cutpurse, a fictionalized version of Mary Frith, who attained legendary status in London by flouting gendered dress conventions, illegally performing onstage, and engaging in all manner of transgressive behavior from smoking and swearing to stealing. In the course of The Roaring Girl’s lively and complex plot of seduction and clever ruses, Moll shares her views on gender and sexuality, defends her honor in a duel, and demonstrates her knowledge of London’s criminal underworld. This edition of the play offers an informative introduction, thorough annotation, and a substantial selection of contextual materials from the period.


“With its uncompromising cross-dressed heroine, and its cheerful disregard for conventional sexual mores, The Roaring Girl offers a winning specimen of early modern London’s screwball comedy. Kelly Stage’s terrific edition brings the play’s rollicking schemes into sharp focus through clear accounts of its colorful language and historical references, juxtaposed with contemporary writings on cross-dressing, criminals, tobacco, and the real Moll Frith. This is a welcome resource for first-time readers and scholars alike.” — Tanya Pollard, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

“Providing a nuanced and contextually sensitive introduction, Kelly Stage’s excellent edition of The Roaring Girl will prove immensely valuable to undergraduate and graduate students alike. Especially useful is Stage’s careful discussion of clothing transgression in relation to the complex gender and socioeconomic dynamics that shaped the play’s composition and staging. The text includes extensive and detailed explanatory notes that will help students and newcomers unpackage what can be a challenging play. The edition concludes with an array of contemporary historical documents that offer contextual background on issues relating to cross-dressing, theater life, criminality, and material culture.” — Matthew Kendrick, William Paterson University

“Kelly Stage’s edition of Dekker and Middleton’s The Roaring Girl and John Greenwood’s of Jonson’s The Alchemist, both from the Broadview Press, are convenient, handsome volumes … Each of the editors contributes a framing introduction to their play, and these also strike a Goldilocks standard, with a short biography of the playwrights and enough other background information to get a reader underway. Their common tone is informative, brisk, and accessible.” — William N. West, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900


The Roaring Girl or Moll Cutpurse

In Context

  • A. On Mary Frith’s Life
    • 1. from the Consistory Court of London Correction Book, 27 January 1611/12
    • 2. The Last Will and Testament of Mary Markham, Alias Mary Frith (1659)
  • B. On Theater, Gender, and Cross-Dressing
    • 1. from Stephen Gosson, Plays Confuted in Five Actions, Proving that they are not to be suffered in a Christian Commonweal (1582)
    • 2. from anonymous, The Life of Long Meg of Westminster, containing the mad merry pranks she played in her lifetime, not only in performing sundry quarrels with diverse ruffians about London: but also how valiantly she behaved herself in wars of Boulogne (1620, revised 1635)
    • 3. from anonymous, Hic Mulier: or, The Man-Woman: Being a Medicine to Cure the Coltish Disease of the Staggers in the Masculine-Feminines of our Time (1620)
    • 4. anonymous, Haec-Vir: or, The Womanish-Man (1620)
  • C. On Criminals
    • 1. from Thomas Harman, A Caveat for Common Cursitors, Vulgarly Called Vagabonds (1566, revised 1567/68)
    • 2. from Thomas Dekker, The Bellman of London Bringing to Light the Most Notorious Villainies That Are Now Practised in the Kingdom (1608)
  • D. On Tobacco
    • 1. from anonymous, “A Merry Progress to London to see Fashions, by a young Country Gallant, that had more Money than Wit” (1615)
    • 2. from King James I, A Counterblast to Tobacco (1604)

Further Reading

Kelly Stage is associate professor and director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.