A group of players have assembled to perform a nice, normal play entitled “The London Merchant.” Unfortunately, one of the audience members objects to watching another play about the English elite, and instead demands that his apprentice, Ralph, be brought on stage to perform the role of a grocer - not just any grocer, but a grocer who becomes a knight. While the players proceed to present their original play, following a pair of lovers who wish to elope against their parents’ wills, Ralph - urged by his doting audience - interrupts with the fanciful adventures of the so-called Knight of the Burning Pestle. The two plays limp on side-by-side, featuring knights who are actually bartenders, giants who are actually barbers, cunning schemes, faked deaths, ghosts, and even a dramatic closing battle scene that serves no purpose at all.
The Knight of the Burning Pestle was first performed at Blackfriars Theatre in 1607, and is considered the earliest true parody play in English. Poking fun at out-of-date chivalric romances, the play is also filled with in-jokes about playwrights of the day, their audiences, and the business of making theatre in general. Often compared to Don Quixote de la Mancha by modern readers, The Knight of the Burning Pestle is a metatheatrical comedy full of fanciful adventure as well as many of the hallmarks of Elizabethan drama.
The Knight of the Burning Pestle guide sections