This Jacobean city comedy is a curiosity in that it presents areal-life character, the notorious cross-dresser Moll Frith, whoprobably was among the first audiences of 'her play before she wastaken up for public misconduct. Middleton and Dekkers 'roaring girlmay outrage her society with her pipe, bluster and swagger, but sheturns out to be the moral centre of the play. Her code of honour leadsher to call the bluff on rogues and conspicuous consumers, to thrash ahypocritical gallant in a duel, and to act as go-between for the younglovers thwarted by parental tyranny. This wry dramatisation of femaledeviancy exposing male ineffectuality is as much to the point today asit was in King Jamess England. An appendix helps the modern reader toappreciate the canting terms used by the low-life characters.

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