The London Prodigal – Introduction

The London Prodigal is part of what I term the Dekker Apocrypha.  It is more famously part of the Shakespeare Apocrypha, a term created by Tucker Brooke in his 1908 book of that title, referring to plays which were at one time considered be Shakespeare’s work.

The play was first published in a 1605 quarto with a title page clearly identifying Shakespeare as the playwright.  It also claims that it was performed by the King’s Majesty’s servants, the King’s Men of which Shakespeare was a member.  It was not included by Hemmings and Condell in the 1623 First Folio.  In 1664 it was included in the Third Folio by by its publisher Philip Chetwinde along with five other plays now considered part of the Shakespeare Apocrypha.  These plays were also published in 1685 in the Fourth Folio.

None of my sources state who first attributed the play to Dekker, but numerous other playwrights have also been suggested, such as John Marston, Ben Jonson, Michael Drayton, Thomas Heywood, and George Wilkins.  The reason for a Dekker attribution is also not clear, but I suspect it has a lot to do with Luce’s disguise as a Dutch woman in the latter half of the play.  Her accent as written bears a resemblance to that of Lacy in The Shoemaker’s Holiday when he is likewise disguised as Dutch.  This same accent also suggests Marston as the playwright–as per his play The Dutch Courtesan. 

The play is essentially an updated version of the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son, as told in Luke’s gospel, but with new elements added, such as the hero’s marriage.

Dramatis Personæ

Act One, Scene One

Act One, Scene Two

Act Two, Scene One

Act Two, Scene Two

Act Two, Scene Three

Act Two, Scene Four

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 Five, Scene One

Return to Dekker page


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