chapter  2
29 Pages

Debts of Various Kinds: Dekker’s Relationships

Thomas Dekker's layered portrait of the Jacobean gull which drew extensively on stock character that Sir John Davies helped to cement was developed most comprehensively in The Guls Horne-Booke. Dekker's gulls appear, like those of Davies, to be credulous, conceited would-be gallants, ripe for exploitation by rogues, shopkeepers, innkeepers, usurers. For Dekker, gulls and rogues exemplified the follies and vices of contemporary, and especially metropolitan, life. His two most successful pamphlets, The Belman of London and its sequel Lanthorne and Candle-Light were written in the cony-catching tradition which had developed in the second half of the sixteenth century, and rogue characters also played a large part in his other prose works. Dekker's book seems to catalogue behaviour that is reprehensible and foolish, but it also demonstrates how to play the part of the gull successfully in the full knowledge that it costs money, since it is understood that spending what money he has is the principal end of the gull.