Rogues and Early Modern English Culture is a definitive collection of critical essays on the literary and cultural impact of the early modern rogue. Under various names—rogues, vagrants, molls, doxies, vagabonds, cony-catchers, masterless men, caterpillars of the commonwealth—this group of marginal figures, poor men and women with no clear social place or identity, exploded onto the scene in sixteenth-century English history and culture. Early modern representations of the rogue or moll in pamphlets, plays, poems, ballads, historical records, and the infamous Tudor Poor Laws treated these characters as harbingers of emerging social, economic, and cultural changes.
Images of the early modern rogue reflected historical developments but also created cultural icons for mobility, change, and social adaptation. The underclass rogue in many ways inverts the familiar image of the self-fashioned gentleman, traditionally seen as the literary focus and exemplar of the age, but the two characters have more in common than courtiers or humanists would have admitted. Both relied on linguistic prowess and social dexterity to manage their careers, whether exploiting the politics of privilege at court or surviving by their wits on urban streets.
Deftly edited by Craig Dionne and Steve Mentz, this anthology features essays from prominent and emerging critics in the field of Renaissance studies and promises to attract considerable attention from a broad range of readers and scholars in literary studies and social history.
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