‘The Grocers Honour’: or, Taking the City Seriously in The Knight of the Burning Pestle


  • Tracey Hill Bath Spa University




Beaumont, City of London, livery companies, theatre


The Knight of the Burning Pestle famously flopped when first performed c. 1607. Critical debate over its so-called ‘privy mark of irony’ has subsequently oscillated between those who argue that the play did not satirize the London citizenry trenchantly enough, and those who prefer the interpretation that the ‘irony’ was only too apparent, and that this alienated the audience. Few have fully interrogated the play’s complex engagement with the early Jacobean citizen class and the City of London’s livery companies. This paper argues that The Knight’s presentation of citizens takes place in the context both of a theatre much more involved in civic structures, and of a city more imbued with performance, than is usually presumed.

Author Biography

Tracey Hill, Bath Spa University

Tracey Hill is professor of early modern literature and culture at Bath Spa University, UK. She is the author of two books - Anthony Munday and Civic Culture (2004) and Pageantry and Power: A Cultural History of the Early Modern Lord Mayor's Show (2010) - as well as a number of essays and articles on early modern drama and pageantry.






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