The Life and Death of Jack Straw

an anonymous history

written c. 1590; first published 1593


About the Play

The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is one of the great watershed events in English history. This anonymous sixteenth-century play follows Jack Straw, Wat Tyler, and the rebels as they march on London to confront the young Richard II.

This anonymous play is believed to have been written sometime between 1585 and 1591, perhaps for a public pageant performed before the Lord Mayor of London, whose predecessor, William Walworth, is a hero of the play. It was entered on the Stationers’ Register on October 23, 1593.


Known Editions

  • The Life and Death of Iacke Straw, A notable Rebell in England: Who was kild in Smithfield by the Lord Maior of London. Printed at London by Iohn Danter, and are to be sold by William Barley at his shop in Gratious-street over against Leaden-Hall. 1593

    The earliest printing, from which the later 1604 printing appears to have been set.

  • The life and death of Iacke Straw, a notable Rebell in England: who was killed in Smithfield, by the Lord Mayor of London. Printed at London: for Thomas Pauyer, and are to be sold at his shop at the entring into the Exchange. 1604

    Appears to be copied from the 1593 edition, reproducing its errors and including additional ones.


References from Secondary Sources

  • Walter Wilson Gregg, A List of English Plays (1900)

    The Life and Death of Iacke Straw, a notable Rebell in England: Who was kild in Smithfield by the Lord Maior of London. Iohn Danter solde by William Barley. 1593. The colophon bears the date 1594. B.M. (C. 34. b. 46).

    [Another edition.] for Thomas Pauyer. 1604. Bodl.

  • James O. Halliwell, A Dictionary of Old English Plays (1860)

    JACK STRAW. The Life and Death of Jacke Straw, a notable Rebell in England, who was ild in Smithfield by the Lord Maior of London; Printed at London by John Danter, and are to be sold by William Barley, 1593, 4to. Another edition, printed for Thomas Pavier, 1604. In four acts only. The plot is founded on the history of Jack Straw, as related in the chronicles. This play was entered on the registers of the Stationers' Company by John Danter, Oct. 23rd, 1593.