In Middleton and Dekker's The Roaring Girl Sir Alexander Wengrave plots to destroy Moll Cutpurse, the 'roaring girl' to whom his son Sebastian is apparently devoted, by using a figure from the canting underworld, Ralph Trapdoor, as his device. This character's name is surely suggestive. If, as this essay proposes, we can be reasonably sure that the Fortune playhouse, where the play was staged in 1611, provided for access to the main stage from the space underneath, then this character's name poses a tantalising question: would the Prince's Men have ignored the possibility of using a trap for Ralph Trapdoor? The play's editors have tended to ignore the matter, but it invites a host of questions pertaining to when and why a trapdoor might have been employed– and not. This essay examines the textual evidence–focusing on explicit and implicit stage directions as well as the relationship between architectural space and the play-world–to weigh the issue. We have so little direct evidence for a feature of the early modern playhouse scholars take for granted that The Roaring Girl offers perhaps the best opportunity to explore it.


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pp. 187-204
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