Thomas Dekker

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Dekker, Thomas,

c,1570–1632, English dramatist and pamphleteer. Little is known of his life except that he frequently suffered from poverty and served several prison terms for debt. He began his literary career c.1598 working for Philip HensloweHenslowe, Philip
, c.1550–1616, English businessman and theatrical manager. Although he managed the Rose Theatre, Bankside, London, and the Fortune Theatre, Cripplegate, London, he is best remembered for his association with his son-in-law Edward Alleyn and the Admiral's
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. During this period he wrote his most famous play, The Shoemaker's Holiday (1600), a delightful domestic comedy concerning the success of Simon Eyre, a master shoemaker who becomes the lord mayor of London. The play is notable for its realistic depiction of everyday life in 17th-century London as well as for Dekker's strong use of romantic fantasy in his depiction of characters. After collaborating with John WebsterWebster, John,
1580?–1634, English dramatist, b. London. Although little is known of his life, there is evidence that he worked for Philip Henslowe, collaborating with such playwrights as Dekker and Ford.
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 on Westward Ho (1604) and Northward Ho (1605) and with Thomas MiddletonMiddleton, Thomas,
1580–1627, English dramatist, b. London, grad. Queen's College, Oxford, 1598. His early plays were chiefly written in collaboration with Dekker, Drayton, and others.
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 on the first part of The Honest Whore (1604; Part II, 1630), Dekker turned to writing pamphlets, the most notable being The Seven Deadly Sins of London (1606) and The Gull's Hornbook (1609), a satiric account of the fops and gallants of his day. In 1610 he returned to playwriting, writing separately and in collaboration with Middleton (The Roaring Girl, 1611), Philip MassingerMassinger, Philip
, 1583–1640, English dramatist, b. Salisbury. He studied at Oxford (1602–6) but left without a degree, apparently to go to London to write plays. A prolific writer, Massinger wrote more than 40 plays (often in collaboration).
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 (The Virgin Martyr, 1622), John FordFord, John,
1586–c.1640, English dramatist, b. Devonshire. He went to London to study law but was never called to the bar. The early part of his playwriting career was taken up with collaborations, primarily with Dekker.
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, and others. Many of his works, however, have been lost. He was known to have at least partially written over 40 plays, of which about 15 are extant.


See edition of his plays by F. Bowers (4 vol., 1953–61); studies by G. R. Price (1969), T. Bose (1979), and L. Champion (1985).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dekker, Thomas


Born 1572 (?) in London; died there 1632. English playwright.

Born into the artisan class, Dekker expressed democratic tendencies in his plays (The Pleasant Comedy of Old Fortunatus, 1600, The Shoemaker’s Holiday or the Gentle Craft, published anonymously in 1600, and The Honest Whore, 1604). He and J. Marston wrote the comedy Satiromastix, which was presented in 1601 and published in 1602. With J. Webster, Dekker wrote The Famous History of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1607), with P. Massinger The Virgin Martyr (1622), and with J. Ford and W. Rowley The Witch of Edmonton, which was staged in 1621 and published in 1658. Dekker’s prose works include The Wonderful Year (1603), The Bellman of London (1608), The Gull’s Hornbook (1609), and many satirical pamphlets.


Dramatic Works, vols. 1–4. London, 1873.
Nondramatic Works, vols. 1–5. London, 1884–86.
In Russian translation:
Dobrodetel’naia shliukha. In I. A. Aksenov, Elizavetintsy. Moscow, 1938.
Prazdnik bashmachnika. In Sovremenniki Shekspira, vol. 1. Moscow, 1959.


Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 1, fasc. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1945.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.