Thomas Dekker (writer)

English dramatist and pamphleteer

Thomas Dekker (c. 1572August 25 1632) was an Elizabethan dramatist and pamphleteer, a versatile and prolific writer whose career spanned several decades and brought him into contact with many of the period's most famous dramatists.


  • A wise man poor
    Is like a sacred book that’s never read,—
    To himself he lives, and to all else seems dead.
    This age thinks better of a gilded fool
    Than of a threadbare saint in wisdom’s school.
    • Old Fortunatus (1599).
  • And though mine arm should conquer twenty worlds,
    There ’s a lean fellow beats all conquerors.
    • Old Fortunatus (1599).
  • To add to golden numbers golden numbers.
    • Patient Grissell (1599), Act i. Sc. 1.
  • Honest labour bears a lovely face.
    • Patient Grissell (1599), Act i. Sc. 1.
  • The best of men
    That e’er wore earth about him was a sufferer;
    A soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit,
    The first true gentleman that ever breathed.
    • The Honest Whore (1604), Part i, Act i. Sc. 12. Compare: "Of the offspring of the gentilman Jafeth come Habraham, Moyses, Aron, and the profettys; also the Kyng of the right lyne of Mary, of whom that gentilman Jhesus was borne", Juliana Berners, Heraldic Blazonry.
  • I was ne’er so thrummed since I was a gentleman.
    • The Honest Whore (1604), Part i, Act iv. Sc. 2. Compare: "Zounds! I was never so bethump’d with words, Since I first call’d my brother’s father dad", William Shakespeare, King John, Act ii. Sc. 2.
  • This principle is old, but true as fate,—
    Kings may love treason, but the traitor hate.
    • The Honest Whore (1604), Part i, Act iv. Sc. 4.
    • Compare: "Cæsar said he loved the treason, but hated the traitor", Plutarch, Life of Romulus.
    • Compare: "treason is loved of many, but the Traitor hated of all", Robert Greene, Pandosto (1588).
  • We are ne’er like angels till our passion dies.
    • The Honest Whore (1604), Part ii, Act i. Sc. 2.
  • Turn over a new leaf.
    • The Honest Whore (1604), Part ii, Act ii. Sc. 1. Compare: "Turn over a new leaf", Thomas Middleton, Anything for a Quiet Life (1621), Act iii. Sc. 3.
  • Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers?
    O sweet content!
    Art thou rich, yet is thy mind perplex'd?
    O punishment!

The Noble Spanish Soldier (1622)

  • ONAELIA: One step to human bliss is sweet revenge.
  • ONAELIA:You are like common beadles, apt to lash
    Almost to death poor wretches not worth striking,
    But fawn with slavish flattery on damned vices
    So great men act them. You clap hands at those,
    Where the true poet indeed doth scorn to gild
    A gaudy tomb with glory of his verse,
    Which coffins stinking carrion.
  • ONAELIA: What sort of poets are there?
    POET: Two sorts lady: The great poets and the small poets.
    ONAELIA: Great and small! Which do you call the great? The fat ones?
  • ALANZO: Wrongs, like great whirlwinds,
    Shake highest battlements. Few for heaven would care,
    Should they be ever happy.
  • KING: I am full of thoughts,
    A thousand wheels toss my incertain fears,
    There is a storm in my hot boiling brains,
    Which rises without wind. A horrid one.
  • BALTHAZAR: I have a private coat for Italian stilettos, I can be treacherous with the Walloon, drunk with the Dutch, a chimney-sweeper with the Irish, a gentleman with the Welsh and true arrant thief with the English. What then is my country to me?
  • BALTHAZAR: Subjects may stumble, when kings walk astray.
    Thine acts shall be a new Apocrypha.
  • BALTHAZAR: Sin is a raven croaking her own fall.
  • QUEEN: But Hymen's torch, held downward, shall drop out,
    And for it, the mad Furies swing their brands
    About the bride-chamber.
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