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Singing Simpkin and other Bawdy Jigs
Musical Comedy on the Shakespearean Stage: Scripts, Music and Context

By Roger Clegg and Lucie Skeaping

Singing Simpkin and other Bawdy Jigs
Paperback, 352 pages £30.00
Published: 2014
ISBN: 9780859898782
Format: 249mm x 177mm
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Subjects: English and American Literature, Music, Performance

A popular crowd-pleaser in the late 16th and mid-17th century, the dramatic jig was a short, comic, bawdy musical-drama which included elements of dance, slapstick and disguise. With a cast of ageing cuckolds and young head-strong wives, knavish clowns, roaring soldiers and country bumpkins, jigs often followed as afterpieces at London’s playhouses, and were performed at fairs, in villages and in private houses. Troublesome to the authorities, they drew the crowds by offering a lively antidote to more sober theatrical fare. 

This performance edition presents for the first time nine examples of English dramatic jigs from the late sixteenth century through to the Restoration; the scripts are re-united as far as possible with their original tunes. It gives a comprehensive history, discusses sources, plots, instrumentation and dancing, and offers practical information on staging jigs today.


  • Transcriptions of the original texts

  • Contextual notes: plot synopses and discussion of sources, themes and audience reception

  • Musical notation for each tune, with suggestions for underlay and chords, and notes on instrumention and style

  • Appendix of dance instructions and reconstructions

List of illustrations



Abbreviations and referencing conventions

A history of the dramatic jig

The scripts and tunes:

Wooing of Nan 

Rowland’s God Son 

Singing Simpkin 

Francis’ New Jig

The Black Man

The Jig of St. Denys’ Ghost

The Libel of Michael Steel

Fools Fortune

The Cheaters Cheated

Staging the jigs




Appendix: Dance instruction  


‘a thoroughly researched and densely documented volume, represents the most substantial and authoritative study of this elusive and much misunderstood theatrical genre’ (The Times Literary Supplement, 18 June 2014, Stanley Wells)

‘Lucie Skeaping’s experience as a compiler… and as director of The City Waites ensures appropriate matches when information is missing. Her expertise is matched by Roger Clegg’s knowledge of Renaissance popular theatre and comedy generally.’ (Early Music Today, June-August 2014, Jeremy Barlow)

Singing Simpkin presents and appraises textual and musical evidence relating to the stage jig with exemplary thoroughness. The book adds greatly to our picture of stage performance generally, from Shakespeare's time to the Restoration.

Jeremy Barlow, specialist in early English music


“published at an affordable price in a handsome large paperback format, this collection [...] is broadly and deeply informed”

“this book’s best feature is usefulness. But it is a usefulness so wide-ranging as to be remarkable. Singing Simpkin will be, or ought to be, valued by musicologists, theatre or performance historians, seeksers after the aesthetics of Shakespearean drama, cultural historians, and many others including (hopefully) current-day theatrical practitioners aiming to re-animate historical modes of playing.”

(B.J. Sokol, Shakespeare, Volume 10 No. 3, 2014)

Lucie Skeaping is a celebrated musician and broadcaster and currently presents ‘The Early Music Show’ on BBC Radio 3. 

Following her training as a violinist at the Royal College of Music, Lucie founded ‘The City Waites’ (www.citywaites.co.uk), an early music band specialising in 16th and 17th century English broadside ballads and popular tunes that has since recorded numerous CDs and toured worldwide (the Daily Telegraph dubbed her 'the bawdy babe of Radio 3'). 

She also spent several years as a popular BBC television children’s presenter.She has contributed to numerous soundtracks including the Oscar-winning movie ‘The Pianist’, ‘The Draughtsman’s Contract’ and Simon Schama's 'History of Britain' series; TV appearances include Jonathan Miller’s ‘The Beggar’s Opera’, ‘Early Music’, 'Rude Britannia', Songs of Praise, BBC Breakfast and ‘Sounds of London’ with Jools Holland.  Theatre roles include several pantomimes and 'The Beggar’s Opera', and, as a musician, she has worked with the Royal National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, Rambert Dance Company and the RSC.

Lucie's publications include ‘Broadside Ballads’, winner of the Music Industry Award for Best Classical Music Publication 2006, and the schools book 'Let's Make Tudor Music' (Stainer and Bell 1999); she writes a column for the BBC Music Magazine, and has contributed articles for The Financial Times and History Today. 

She has run jig workshops for the RSC and at Dartington International Summer School, and lectures regularly on the ballads of 17th century England.  More information can be found on Lucie's website at http://www.lucieskeaping.co.uk

Roger Clegg is Senior Lecturer in Drama Studies at De Montfort University, where his teaching includes Twentieth Century European Drama, Popular Theatre, Pre-texts and Contexts of Drama and Renaissance English Theatre.

His research is in the politics and practice of Renaissance popular performance and the relationship between the stage and the culture and society which it inhabits.  He has researched and written on English jigs from the late sixteenth and seventeenth century, and has also investigated the staging of Singing Simpkin at Shakespeare’s Globe as part of Globe Education’s ‘Winter Playing’ research (2003).

Publications include ‘He’s for a jig or a Tale of Bawdry: Notes on the English stage Jig’, with Peter Thomson, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 2009.

Roger is also particularly interested in popular humour, political satire and comic performance, and organises a conference and other events annually under the banner Playing for Laughs: On Comedy in Performance (as part of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival) which invites academics and practitioners of comedy to come together to share ideas on just why and how people generate laughter through performance.

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 352 pages
 249mm x 177mm

BIC Code:
 University of Exeter Press


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