THE COMPLETE CONY-CATCHING
by ROBERT GREENE

 

Introduction

Robert Greene (1558 1592) was an English dramatist, poet, pamphleteer, rake and debauchee. He appears as a minor character in both of Anthony Burgess' Elizabethan novels Nothing Like The Sun (about Shakespeare) and A Dead Man In Deptford (about Marlowe). A graduate of Clare Hall, Cambridge, he eloped with a wealthy woman whom he abandoned after having spent all her money. He then went to London, where he lived by writing, associated with whores, thieves, and low fellows of every kind, and spent money faster than he got it on drunkenness and debauchery. The "Groatsworth of Wit", also available on this site, is his best known work, and has the first reference in print to William Shakespeare as a playwright. In addition he wrote six plays, an amount of poetry and numerous pamphlets, mostly love stories and accounts of criminals and swindlers.

In the six pamphlets here collected you will learn about the tricks of cony-catchers (swindlers), nips (cutpurses), foists (pickpockets), cross-biters (men who extort money from a prostitute's clients by pretending to be her husband), lifts (shoplifters, and stealers of other unguarded goods), priggers (horse thieves), and courbers (thieves who drag goods out through the window with a long hooked pole). Based on close observation, and illustrated with stories of notable strokes, they give a great insight into the underside of queen Bess's and Shakespeare's London.

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Links
The Cony-catching Pamphlets of Robert Greene A Bibliography and Study by Frances Kirkpatrick Darden. A PhD thesis; very detailed and scholarly discussion of the pamphlets.
The Three parts and the Disputation Original spelling version
The Defence and The Black Book's Messenger -- Original spelling version

 

 

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