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date: 04 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter is divided into two sections: the first tries to trace Shakespeare’s steps and what we know about where he lived to describe and discuss the experience of criminality with its associated dangers and troubles that he might have faced each day of his London life; the second reconstructs the nature of crime more generally at this time to more deeply explore fear and danger in Shakespeare’s city. In doing so the chapter also contrasts sensationalist depictions of a criminal underworld of cut-throats, thieves and prostitutes, with organized gangs and a distinctive cant speech, depicted in some literary works of the period with the more prosaic picture of criminal activity driven mainly by poverty and social dislocation revealed by modern historical scholarship. Stories of crimes culled from London court records do, however, provide a wealth of colourful information about the seamier side of life in the metropolis.

Keywords: crime, organized crime, cant, London, poverty, prostitution, crime literature34. Families and Households in Early Modern London, c.1550–1640

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