The Whore of Babylon – Introduction

The Whore of Babylon is easily Dekker’s most partisan religious play, written in the guise of a fantasy.  Babylon, as the original quarto tells us, stands for Rome and the Catholic church, while Titania and Fairy Land is an obvious substitute for Elizabeth and England.  The queen had been dead for three years when Dekker wrote the play, and there is much speculation that the Gunpowder Plot was the immediate inspiration.

The 1607 quarto

Other figures in the play, both appearing and merely mentioned represent real life figures.

Elfiline             Henry VII
Oberon            Henry VIII
First King        France
Second King    Rome
Third King       Spain
Titania’s ungrateful son         Ireland
Paridel             Doctor Parry (a spy who planned to assassinate Queen Elizabeth – executed in 1585)
Campeius        Edmund Campion (a Catholic martyr who operated an underground ministry – executed in 1581)
Ropus              Doctor Lopez (a Portuguese doctor living in London, suspected of being involved in a plot to poison the queen.  It was never proven and Elizabeth later expressed some guilt over his death.  He may have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Shylock)
The rising phœnix       King James

The massive attack on Fairy Land in the fifth act is clearly meant to represent the Armada of 1588. The entire play is thus an allegory of Elizabethan history and some scholars have gone so far as to class the play as a history.

Table of contents

Dramatis Personæ and “Lectori.”

Prologue and Dumb Show

Act One, Scene one

Act One, Scene two

Act Two, Scene one

Act Two, Scene two

Act Three, Scene one

Act Three, Scene two

Act Three, Scene three

Act Four, Scene one

Act Four, Scene two

Act Four, Scene three

Act Four, Scene four

Act Five, Scene one

Act Five, Scene two

Act Five, Scene three

Act Five, Scene four

Act Five, Scene five

Act Five, Scene six

Return to Dekker page

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