Fortune’s Frith: the collaborative acts of Mary Frith at the Fortune Theatre

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentation


The antics of early modern London’s most famous cross-dressing woman, Mary Frith, drew the attention of Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker: they represent a fictionalised version of her in their play The Roaring Girl (1611). Frith appeared on the stage of the Fortune theatre in association with The Roaring Girl, a performance which led the Consistory of London to charge her for being on stage in ‘mans apparel’ and making ‘immodest & lascivious speaches’. In this paper I reframe Frith’s appearance at the Fortune as an act of collaboration, rather than of transgression. I propose that although Frith’s performance is an extraordinary example, it usefully challenges perceptions of early modern dramatic collaboration as exclusively male and primarily about what appeared on the page. Past scholarship has tended to assume Frith’s contribution to The Roaring Girl was an afterpiece, a jig performed when the play had finished. However, in line with some more recent studies, I will consider whether Frith appeared on stage during the play. I suggest that such an understanding of Frith’s performance would demand that it be seen as a collaborative act, requiring the co-operation of the acting company performing the play, and possibly even of The Roaring Girl’s writers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventBritish Graduate Shakespeare Conference - Shakespeare Institute, Stratford Upon Avon
Duration: 14 Jun 201216 Jun 2012


ConferenceBritish Graduate Shakespeare Conference
CityStratford Upon Avon


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