Beaumont and Fletcher – The Knight of the Burning Pestle

Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle is a challenging read for 21st century readers. The beginning of the play shows an unruly citizen of the audience interrupting the Prologue of what is initially to be performed, The London Merchant. Displeased with the kind of plays that have come into fashion over the years in London theaters, the citizen, a grocer, demands that his apprentice Rafe take a part on stage to perform something more in the style of an adventurous, chivalric romance to please his middle-brow taste. So, the play takes its twofold course.

Besides grappling with the complexities of two intersecting plots, this group examines the conventions of 17th century English theater and acting, the forthright engagement of the audience to the happenings on the stage, and the pervasive issue of theatrical illusion. The Knight of the Burning Pestle is a vibrant burlesque which offers many satirical passages critical of late 16th and early 17th century manners and taste. The group’s annotations should enable a better understanding of contemporary theater and acting conventions, of the cultural context in which the play is embedded, of intertextuality and humoristic allusions to other literary texts, and of the play’s satire and humor, all of which find unfolding through the group’s research and writing.

Unfortunately, this group cannot be offered during the 2024 summer semester. If you are interested in joining this group at a later time, please send an email to annotating-literature [at]