Publication details

Clapping to A Criminal: The Jack Sheppard Craze of the 1720s

Investor logo


Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Theory and Practice in English Studies (THEPES)
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords Jack Sheppard; farce; ballad-opera; English popular culture
Description Jack Sheppard, a real historical figure executed in 1724 London, became the focus of many biographical publications and theatrical pieces immediately after his demise. This article examines the earliest literary works featuring Sheppard and the way the character of a criminal entered London’s stages. By analyzing the digression from the facts of Sheppard’s life, the tendencies of the popular theatrical genres of the 1720s emerge. Based on two works of art, Thurmond’s Harlequin Sheppard (1724) and Walker’s Quaker’s Opera (1728), one can trace the development of the theatre devices as well as the marketing strategies dramatic authors used to lure the audience into theatres. Both examined pieces were not particularly successful but Thurmond’s pantomime significantly inspired John Gay to write Beggar’s Opera, basing the character of Macheath on Sheppard. Walker then combined the two phenomena – taking the strategies of new ballad operas, he repurposed the story of Jack Sheppard and adapted it into Quaker’s Opera.
Related projects:

You are running an old browser version. We recommend updating your browser to its latest version.

More info