The Roaring Girl
  • Publication Date: June 15, 2019
  • ISBN: 9781554812134 / 1554812135
  • 180 pages; 5½" x 8½"
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The Roaring Girl

  • Publication Date: June 15, 2019
  • ISBN: 9781554812134 / 1554812135
  • 180 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The titular “Roaring Girl” of Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s comedy is Moll Cutpurse, a fictionalized version of a real person, Mary Frith, who attained legendary status in London by flouting gendered dress conventions, illegally performing onstage, and engaging in all sorts 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 own 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 related to the real Mary Frith, gender and cross-dressing, criminality in London, and more.


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 Cursetors, Vulgarly Called Vagabonds (1566, revised 1567)
    • 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 London Life
    • 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)

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