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Thomas Dekker

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 Henslowe. 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 Webster on Westward Ho (1604) and Northward Ho (1605) and with Thomas Middleton 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 Massinger ( The Virgin Martyr, 1622), John Ford, 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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