Thomas Dekker



The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Fredson Bowers, 4 vols (Cambridge, 1953-61).


The Non-Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, Huth Library, 5 vols (privately printed, 1884-6; reprinted New York, 1963).


M. T. Jones-Davies, Un peintre de la vie londonienne: Thomas Dekker (Paris, 1958).


Autograph and Scribal Manuscripts

Dekker's handwriting has long been recognised as one of the hands in The Booke of Sir Thomas Moore (DkT 45). A scribal copy of one play wholly attributed to him, The Welsh Embassador, also survives (DkT 46). The only work of Dekker to be extensively represented in manuscripts, however, since it was such a popular choice for miscellanies, is the first of the three poems on the death of Queen Elizabeth that he published in The Wonderful yeare (1603) (DkT 3-36.8). This poem also appeared in Camden's Remaines (1614). Dekker's authorship is by no means certain, but he probably has the best claim to it.

Examples of Dekker's handwriting can otherwise be found in just a few extant letters and documents (DkT 49-60). Most of these receipts and acknowledgements, drafted or signed by him, are now widely dispersed fragments almost certainly excised by John Payne Collier (1789-1883) from the celebrated ‘Diary’ of Philip Henslowe at Dulwich College. Most, if not all of these, are reproduced in The Henslowe Papers, ed. R.A. Foakes (London, 1977), and also in the online Henslowe-Alleyn Digitization Project.

Dramatic Works and the Canon

The standard edition of Dekker's plays is Bowers. Most of his other works are edited in Grosart. The canon of Dekker's dramatic works is discussed in Bentley, III, 241-75, and V, 1328-30. As with many other Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists, it is still open to debate.

A few printed exempla of the plays, known to have early annotations, may be briefly listed as follows:

Bowers states (II, 16-17) that the apparently unique exemplum of the ‘third’ edition of The Honest Whore, Part I (1605) in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Dyce 2864 (Pressmark D. 26, Box 11. 3)) has some markings and underlinings. An imperfect exemplum of The Honest Whore, Part II (1630) in the Bodleian (Malone 192 (6)) has manuscript cuts and annotations for a theatrical performance but they are ‘not contemporary’ (Bowers, II, 134). The manuscript markings in an imperfect exemplum of The Whore of Babylon (1607) at Worcester College, Oxford (Plays 2-1(3)), were perhaps made for a production at the time of the Popish Plot (Bowers, II, 495). Bowers also mentions (III, 345) an exemplum of Match Me in London (1631), containing early manuscript corrections, formerly in the Hyde Collection (i.e. of Donald Frizell Hyde (1909-66) and Mary Hyde (1912-2003), Viscountess Eccles).

Peter Beal