I scorn to prostitute myself to a man,
I that can prostitute a man to me...

--Moll Cutpurse

The Roaring Girl is an adaptation of the 1611 comedy by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. Like all good Jacobean comedies the script features sex scandals, wacky misunderstandings, and plenty of sword fights. The Roaring Girl had its world premiere in 1999 with Shakespeare's Motley Crew in Chicago, Illinois. The script was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Citation for "Best Adaptation."
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...what might have happened if William Shakespeare and Alexandre Dumas had joined forces to create a vehicle for Mae West... witty, bawdy dialogue...flawless... highly recommended.

-Adam Langer

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...a grand old time with this action packed adventure story...

-Lucia Mauro

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swashbuckling fun... the production is a handsome one indeed.

-Catey Sullivan

Enter the name for this tabbed section: Production Requirements

London, 1611
Run Time

1.75 hours
Characters (13 men; 4 women)

MOLL, the Roaring Girl

NEATFOOT [Sir Alexander’s Man]
SEBASTIAN WENGRAVE [Sir Alexander’s Son]

JACK DAPPER [a Gallant]
GOSHAWK [a Gallant]
GREENWIT [a Gallant]
LAXTON [a Gallant]
FIGGIN [a Gallant]
ROGER [a Gallant]

MASTER OPENWORK [a sempster]

MASTER GALLIPOT [a tavern owner]
MARY GALLIPOT [their daughter]

LORD NOLAND [London’s Mayor]
Enter the name for this tabbed section: Background Notes
The Roaring Girl, as published in 1611 by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, tells the story of “Moll Cutpurse,” a pants-wearing, sword-wielding woman whose fierce independence creates scandal wherever she goes. Based on the real-life Mary Firth, a notorious female highwayman of the 17th century, Moll is not just a woman of a playwright’s imagination, but a living, breathing story. Firth cut a striking and colorful figure in Jacobean London; by most reports, she was a thief and a con artist, yet how much of that report was slander (as the play suggests) is unknown. She was undoubtedly a dynamic and controversial woman, living unmarried to the remarkable age of 74 and the object and initiator of numerous lawsuits. By writing the comedy of The Roaring Girl, Middleton and Dekker gave the stage one of its first truly bold and adventurous heroines.

Middleton and Dekker’s script is most notable for the quality and life of its characters rather than any particular cohesiveness of plot or action. While Moll was praised by T.S. Eliot as one of the most human and real characters in the history of theatre, the play is very much a product for its time– chock full of inscrutable puns, local references, and a thousand dangling plot points. Given all that, it is no surprise that the play has a very meager production history– only a handful professional productions in the last four centuries.

This new adaptation of The Roaring Girl had its world premiere with Shakespeare’s Motley Crew in Chicago, Illinois in 1999. The play received glowing reviews and a Joseph Jefferson Nomination for Best Adaptation.

The new script attempts to hold on to the flavor and fun of the play as it must have felt to its original audience, while keeping the comedy sharp and approachable. Saving the best of the original, the authors constructed a new framework on which to hang Middleton and Dekker’s characters. Thus, the script is about 25% original text, the rest is new material developed for this adaptation, echoing a proud Jacobean tradition of repurposing material freely for new production.
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