Critical Introduction

Thomas Middleton wrote The Triumphs of Truth in 1613, to honour the Lord Mayor of the same name, Sir Thomas Middleton, Grocer. The Triumphs of Truth was the most expensive mayoral pageant of the Renaissance, and, despite the propaganda that is construed negatively today, it was arguably Middleton’s finest (Bergeron 179).
The Triumphs of Truth is what Margot Heinemann calls a sustained moral allegory (Heinemann 127). It relies on theme and symbolism rather than plot, and the theme that is sustained throughout the pageant is Truth prevails over Error. Thomas Middleton also makes use of allegorical characters, such as Truth, Zeal, and Error, and costumes them emblematically so that the members of the civic audience will be able to know who each character is, even if they cannot hear the pageant. David M. Bergeron praises Middleton’s descriptions of the allegorical characters. He says, No other pageant-dramatist Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (KL)[…] gives greater evidence of understanding the traditional iconographical presentation of allegorical figures. It is not merely a portrait, however, for it has a dramatic function: to sharpen the contrast between good and evil (Bergeron 182). Lawrence Manley says that Middleton’s pageants, sponsored by such Puritan-dominated companies as the Grocers or the Skinners, were especially frank in their allusions to contemporary vices threatening the City rulers (Manley 282). In The Triumphs of Truth, Middleton deals explicitly with bribery and corruption, which is atypical for the Lord Mayor’s Show (Heinemann 125), through the character of Error. Error, typifying how not to rule as Lord Mayor, promises to teach the Lord Mayor how to cast mists, and to bring the Lord Mayor bribes.
The Lord Mayor’s Show was unlike a stage play in that the pageant was peripatetic, and no one member of the audience saw it from start to finish. There was a need to write in a simple style and incorporate repetitive action (like the struggle between Error and Truth with the mist), so that the moral or theme would be obvious to a person who had not seen or heard what came before. The cause of dramatic unity is strengthened in The Triumphs of Truth by the movement throughout the processional of all the devices; thus the audience at almost any point has a chance to understand the dramatic action (Bergeron 186).
Unity in The Triumphs of Truth is also achieved by using simple imagery—light to represent good and dark to represent evil (Bergeron 181). Truth’s Angel is wearing white silk which is powdered with stars of gold and Truth is adorned in white satin, and wears a diadem of stars, while Error wears ash-colour silke.
Taking the conflict of the light/dark imagery a step further are the Moors. The King of the Moors makes reference to his dark face, but states that Truth in [his] soul sets up the light of grace. It seems that this King of Moors and his queen had been converted to Christianity by English merchants traveling in their land (Bergeron 183), and they rejoice in their new found religion. As well as setting up a hierarchy with Good over Evil, in this scene of The Triumphs of Truth a hierarchy is created with Christian over Pagan. In this sense, The Triumphs of Truth is justifying the Christianization of far off lands, and promoting trade as a method to do so (Knowles 168).
Perhaps Middleton judged his audience rightly and wrote in such a style that might procure for him future work (Heinemann 125). If this was Middleton’s strategy, it succeeded. The Grocers hired him again in 1617.

Textual Introduction

This text is based on a collation of the two editions of The Triumphs of Truth. There are three surviving copies of the first edition (Middleton STC 17903), and seven copies of the second (Middleton STC 17904). This edition is based on the British Museum copies of both editions.
The two original editions were printed by Nicholas Okes in 1613. The central difference between the two editions of the pageant is the inclusion in the second edition of the entertainment at Amwell-Head on Michaelmas Day; it is absent from the first edition. The second edition has a new title page, reflecting the inclusion of the new section of text. The second edition corrects some textual errors that appeared in the first edition. The type does not appear to have been reset between the two editions, however; other than the compositor’s corrections in the second edition, the two texts are identical.
Unlilke other MoEML texts, this diplomatic transcription modernizes the u/v and i/j typographical conventions. The only other change that has been made has been the distinction between then and than. In the original text it appears as then almost exclusively. Where appropriate, it has been changed to than. This edition also corrects obvious compositional errors, noting these corrections in editorial notes.
Middleton wrote The Triumphs of Truth at a time when pageants were made not only as entertainment, but also as literary texts. The printing, and then reprinting of The Triumphs of Truth, suggests that it was not only a successful pageant, but was also a successful literary achievement.

The Route

Route map of The Triumphs of Truth
Route map of The Triumphs of Truth
  1. The Lord Mayor begins the day at Guildhall.
  2. Musicians are already playing as the Lord Mayor makes his way from Guildhall to Soper-Lane End. After a song, the Lord Mayor is welcomed with a trumpet flourish. London greets him and makes her first speech.
  3. The Lord Mayor, his company, and the waits of the city (a small body of wind instrumentalists maintained by a city), are led down to the banks of the Thames, where they see the five islands for the first time.
  4. The Lord Mayor then proceeds by water to Westminster where he swears his Oath of Mayoralty.
  5. The Lord Mayor returns to the City and is met by Truth’s Angel and Zeal at Baynard’s Castle. Lawrence Manley suggests that landing at Baynard’s Castle is a deviation from the standard route of the Lord Mayor’s show. In his Literature and Culture in Early Modern London, he shows the route using Paul’s Stairs instead (Manley 226-227). The green line on the map represents the route that Manley suggests was standard, and the yellow line represents the route that The Triumphs of Truth took.
  6. Truth’s Angel and Zeal accompany the Lord Mayor to Paul’s Chain, where he is assaulted by Error and his champion, Envy. Truth arrives with her celestial handmaidens, the Graces and Virtues to give the Lord Mayor some advice.
  7. Everyone moves to Paul’s Churchyard. The five islands seen earlier on the river are now set up in the Churchyard, but now they carry the Five Senses. A ship carrying Moorish royalty is sailing on dry land towards the party.
  8. The Pageant moves into Cheapside with the islands in the lead. Once at the Little Conduit they encounter London’s Triumphant Mount, veiled in Error’s mist and guarded by his evil monsters. Truth drives the fog away to reveal London accompanied by Religion, Liberality, and Perfect Love.
  9. The whole Triumph moves to the cross in Cheap. Error continuously shrouds London’s Triumphant Mount in his mist, and Truth keeps banishing it. This battle continues all the way to the Standard.
  10. At the Standard, Error succeeds in covering the Mount in mist until the Pageant reaches St. Laurence Lane End, where Truth drives the mist away.
  11. The Pageant makes its way back to Guildhall for the feast.
  12. Following the pink line on the map, the Lord Mayor, after feasting, is taken to St. Paul’s to perform those yearly ceremonial rights which ancient and grave order hath determined, with Error and Truth shrouding and uncovering the Mount along the way.
  13. Following the orange line on the map, the Pageant moves from St. Paul’s to the entrance of his lordship’s gate near Leadenhall, where Error is vanquished once and for all in a spectacular fireworks show.


While much is known about the mechanics of the court masque, the mechanics of the Lord Mayor’s Show is an under-investigated field. In The Triumphs of Truth, Thomas Middleton worked with master Humphrey Nichols, who made the fire-worke that defeated Error, but what exactly is meant by the firework is unknown. The direction in the text for Error’s fiery defeat states that a Flame shootes from the head of Zeale, which fastening upon the / chariot of Error sets it on fire, and all the beasts that are joynde to it. Robert Withington says that Error and his companions were obviously not alive (Withington 35), suggesting that effigies had replaced them in the chariot. This theory is sound because Error does not speak in the last scene of the Pageant, and an effigy could easily be substituted for the character of Error while everyone was distracted by the speeches of London and Truth. But how did Zeal shoot a flame from his head? Zeal could not have been an effigy, because he makes a speech as he shoots Error, saying Then here’s to the destruction of the seate, / There’s nothing seene of thee but fire shall eate. With the danger involved, it seems unlikely that fireworks would have been rigged to an actor’s head. Perhaps Zeal shot some sort of symbolic flame towards Error’s chariot, and someone would have been standing by to start the fireworks and light the chariot on fire.
Somewhat easier to explain is the staging of the five islands that first appear in the river Thames. These pieces of the set, presumably constructed by John Grinkin, are established as islands when they are seen surrounded by the water of the Thames. Later, in Paul’s Churchyard, they appear on dry land. George Unwin explains their amphibiousness with the use of trolleys (Unwin 279). By using trolleys, one could build a boat on which an island could be constructed, then, as the Lord Mayor makes his way to and from Westminster, the islands could be loaded onto carts and hauled up to St. Paul’s.
The last problem with staging The Triumphs of Truth is that of Error’s mist. It is described as thick, sulphurous darkness, and as a fog or mist. In reality, the mist was just material that Error used to shroud London’s Triumphant Mount over and over again. The reason Truth and Error raise and lower the shroud all the way from the cross in Cheap to the end of the pageant is so that all the onlookers get to see what is going on. This action basically sums up the entire plot of the play—Truth wins over Error—so it is important that the audience sees it. Had the shroud been raised only once, the majority of Londoners watching the Show would have missed its message.

About Mayoral Pageantry

Civic pageantry does not refer to court masques or plays produced in commercial theatres. Civic pageantry refers to entertainments that were generally accessible to the public (Bergeron 2). Examples of civic pageantry include the Royal Entry and the Lord Mayor’s Show. David M. Bergeron also points out that [t]he involvement of the trade guilds and the cities in preparation and production of many of these entertainments also accounts for the civic nature of the shows (Bergeron 3). The civic pageant, like the court masque, was designed for a specific occasion and therefore had a limited lifespan. When the occasion ended, so did the dramatic life of the pageant (Bergeron 3).
The Lord Mayor’s Show, celebrated on the morrow next after Simon and Judes day, was probably the most familiar form of civic pageantry to a Londoner of the sixteenth or seventeenth century. The Show has its origins in another civic pageant called The Midsummer Watch, which was what Robert J. Blackham calls a sort of civic torchlight tattoo (Blackham 41). The Watch, which was part folk tradition, part military exercise, part civic display, consisted of a night-time procession through the City streets of armed men, bowmen, cresset light bearers, Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (KL)[…] musicians, and morris dancers (Lancashire 81). As with its successor, the Lord Mayor’s Show, the livery companies or trade guilds were involved in The Midsummer Watch. Each company was responsible for paying its cresset-bearers, archers, and men in harness, and the Company to whom the mayor and sheriffs belonged provided their pageants, giants, and morris dancers (Unwin 269). The expense of The Watch to the Companies was significantly less than the expense of a Lord Mayor’s Show. Compare the £3 that the Carpenters spent in 1548 (Unwin 269), to the £900 The Grocers spent on The Triumphs of Truth in 1613 (Unwin 278).
The Midsummer Watch was suppressed by royal edict in 1539 (Manley 264), probably because of its traditional Catholic dates and elements (Lancashire 83). Instead the typical Watch pageantry translated into the secular Lord Mayor’s Show (Lancashire 83), and it became the one great civic pageant of the year (Unwin 274), almost immediately after the suppression of The Watch (Manley 265).
Though the office of Lord Mayor has existed since 1189, the title of Lord Mayor was not adopted until 1540 (The Lord Mayor’s Show 2002), and Robert Withington suggests that the first definite Lord Mayor’s Show was not until 1553 (Withington 13), though some sort of procession had been going on since much earlier. In 1215, King John granted a charter that allowed the citizens of the City of London to elect their own Mayor, on the condition that the Mayor be presented to the Sovereign for approval and Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (KL)[…] swear fealty to the Crown (The Lord Mayor’s Show 2002), and so the tradition of the procession to Westminster began. In fact, the original Show consisted of just the Mayor’s trip to Westminster (The Lord Mayor’s Show 2002). It was not until the Elizabethan era that the Lord Mayor’s Show became extravagant (Unwin 275).
Before the mid-fifteenth century, the journey [to Westminster] was normally made entirely by land (Lancashire 82). It was not until 1453 that, according to popular legend, John Norman was the first Lord Mayor to make the trip to Westminster by water (Unwin 275). Robert Withington, however, disagrees, pointing out that Walderne, the Mayor of 1422, seems to have been the first to go by water (Withington 4). Perhaps John Norman is credited with making the first water journey because he was also the first to have the barge that he sat in burn on the water making him the originator of the fire-barge, which afterwards became a regular feature of all pageants (Unwin 275). Eventually, all the Companies bought or hired barges for the procession on the Thames (Blackham 45), which progressed in the traditional hierarchy of the guilds (Knowles 166). Even if a Company was not a Great Company, its barge was still a matter of guild pride (Knowles 166).
The Lord Mayor’s Shows were [c]ommissioned and paid for by the bachelors of the company (Manley 261), who were elected because they were the wealthiest men of the yeomanry, which was the general body of freemen of a livery company. The Lord Mayor’s Show was the Company’s gift to one of its illustrious members (Manley 261). As time went on, the gifts cost more each year.
The Companies showed their wealth and affluence through the extravagance of their pageant. This resulted in a healthy rivalry, which also generate[d] expensive productions (Bergeron 138). For example, the 1561 pageant costs £151, while the 1602 pageant cost an excess of £747 (Bergeron 138), and The Triumphs of Truth in 1613 cost around £900 (Unwin 278). Along with rising costs came the growing intricacy of the show itself. At first, the pageants consisted of a silent show, but by the Elizabethan era the characters were given long speeches (Blackham 43). Eventually, the pageants had about a half-dozen different scenes and numerous personages, all of which George Unwin calls natural product[s] of the Elizabethan age (Unwin 275).
The first pageant text that we know of was written by George Peele in 1585 for Sir Wolstone Dixie, Skinner. The text is a pamphlet which contains only the speeches spoken by the characters in the pageant (Withington 23), unlike Middleton’s text of The Triumphs of Truth (1613), which includes descriptions and explanations of the emblematic costumes. Peele’s 1585 text is also significant because it is the first time a well-known dramatist [was] responsible for the entertainment (Bergeron 131). Other widely known writers who penned civic pageants were George Gascoigne, John Lyly, Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker, John Webster, Thomas Heywood, and Anthony Munday (Bergeron 4).
The pageant theatre, says David M. Bergeron, is the quintessence of emblematic theatre (Bergeron 2), and the writer who was used to creating pieces for the theatre would have to take a different approach when writing civic pageantry. The pageant had to be accessible and understandable to those people watching, and therefore could not be plot-based, and if there is little or no plot, then the dramatic burden of the pageant must fall on theme (Bergeron 7). The theme of The Triumphs of Truth is Truth conquers Error. Anyone watching the pageant at any point on the route would be able to discern this theme from the emblematic costumes and the simple action, even without being able to hear the speeches.
The Elizabethan and Jacobean eras were sympathetic to and indeed educated to symbolism (Bergeron 2), and therefore playwrights and pageantwrights could use symbols and emblems to tell the crowd what exactly the pageant was about. At the same time, the symbols were used to reinforce the greatness of the host Company (like the five islands in The Triumphs of Truth garnished with fruit trees, drugs, and spiceries, which are meant to glorify the Grocers’ Company), and to promote the oligarchic domination of the Companies (Manley 267). The Lord Mayor’s Show celebrat[ed] the power and the values of the City’s innermost mercantile elite (Manley 284). As much as it was a day of fun for the average Londoner, the Show was also used as propaganda for the Companies.
The reign of James I was the Golden Age of the Lord Mayor’s Show (Unwin 277). As the seventeenth century progressed, the pageants reached the height of their extravagance (Blackham 43), only to move in a new direction during the Restoration. The Shows of the Restoration were comical, and replaced the stilted speeches of the Renaissance with jocular songs and clowning (Blackham 43-44). Raymond D. Tumbleson says the shift from serious to silly is because [b]y 1701, there was no longer a need to enact symbolic Triumphs of London because London had triumphed (Tumbleson 54).

About the Livery Companies

The livery companies were the most important organizations in London in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and even more important to London, perhaps, than the monarchy. The livery companies were responsible in part for the extreme wealth in London, and even provided the monarch with money. Robert J. Blackham writes, The livery companies, with their political and municipal power, are peculiar to London. No other city has permitted such a development of its mistries and trades, nowhere else in England have chartered associations of the kind attained such wealth and power (Blackham 2).
The livery companies originated from medieval organizations called guilds, which were voluntary associations formed originally for mutual protection, with religious, benevolent and social elements (Grocers’ 1). The guilds were a mixture of worldly and religious ideals and there was a strong sense of Christian brotherhood between the members of a particular guild (Blackham 2). Being a member of a Worshipful Company was a source of pride and dignity for the old world trader (Blackham 3).
The guilds were not just for social elements and mutual protection, they were also about money. The guildsmen were not just merchants, traders and craftsmen, they were also bankers and financiers (Blackham 13) helping to establish London as the commercial and financial capital of the world. Sir Thomas Gresham, a Mercer, was responsible for the building of the Royal Exchange, which helped develop overseas trade, and helped London expropriate the title of commercial capital from Antwerp (Blackham 13).
Regarding the commercial aspect of the guilds, Blackham says they were designed to represent the interests of Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (KL)[…] the employer, the workman and the consumer, though those interests may be distinct and antagonistic (Blackham 12). The guilds protected its members by being able to regulate the establishment of businesses in the crafts and trades they controlled (Rappaport 29). No one could practice a certain trade except the members of the corresponding Company (Blackham 13), and this protected the employer from the incompetency of the artisan (Blackham 11). The Company controlled the intake of apprentices and the rates of wages, and no journeyman was permitted to work outside his Company (Blackham 13). The Company was committed to protecting the journeyman, who was a trained workman, by preventing his being undersold in the labour market by an unlimited number of competitors (Blackham 11).
It is no surprise, with their great financial and political power, that the livery companies were the most important social organizations in sixteenth-century London (Rappaport 26). By the early seventeenth century, two-thirds of the men in London were citizens of a livery company (Rappaport 53), and the responsibilities of the companies had been extended to providing relief for the poor, collecting taxes, and organizing pageants (Rappaport 26).
The first twelve companies eventually came to be known as The Twelve Great Companies. They are: the Mercers, the Grocers (for whom Thomas Middleton wrote The Triumphs of Truth), the Drapers, the Fishmongers, the Goldsmiths, the Merchant Taylors, the Skinners, the Haberdashers, the Salters, the Ironmongers, the Vintners and the Clothworkers. These Companies wielded the true power in the City of London. Each year the Lord Mayor was selected from one of the twelve, and that Company was responsible for organizing and funding that year’s Lord Mayor’s Show.
In fact, citizens, or freemen, were the only people who held any power in London. To become a freeman, a man who had just finished his apprenticeship would swear an oath before his master and the governors of the Company associated with his trade in a simple ceremony at the hall, and become a member of the Company (Rappaport 23-24). Soon after, the former apprentice (usually now a journeyman), would go to Guildhall where he would be sworn as a citizen or a freeman of London (Rappaport 24).
With his new found freedom, the citizen acquired a number of rights that the non-free could not enjoy. These rights included the right to vote and the right to hold municipal office (Rappaport 30), and the right to engage independently in economic activity (Rappaport 29). It is interesting to note that, while there was no law preventing women from accepting the freedom, it is clear they were excluded from the right and privileges of citizens (Rappaport 49). In practice, they were excluded from becoming apprentices, with a few exceptions. There were only seventy-three women enrolled as apprentices during the entire sixteenth century (Rappaport 37), and in fact, the Weavers’ Company made it policy in 1550 not to take on women apprentices (Rappaport 37).
Apprentices were the bottom of the social hierarchy within the livery companies (Rappaport 232). Above them were the journeymen, the householders, the liverymen, and the assistants at the very top (Rappaport 217). The apprentices could work their way up through the ranks, but first they had to complete their apprenticeship. Apprenticed to a master for a certain number of years, the apprentice had a set of rules he was expected to follow. He was not allowed to marry or commit fornication, nor take part in any unlawful games like dice or cards, and he was not supposed to go to the taverns or the theatres (Rappaport 234). The master provided his apprentice with clothing, as well as room and board (Rappaport 234). When the apprentice completed his term, the master also paid the fees for making him a free man and a member of the company (Rappaport 235).
Above the apprentices in the hierarchy were the journeymen, who worked for wages, and householders, who ran their own shops (Rappaport 221). These two groups formed a sub-organization in the Company called the yeomanry. The origins of the yeomanry lie with illegal fraternities of journeymen in late medieval London (Rappaport 219). These journeymen capitalized on labour shortages, working only for double or triple the normal wage (Rappaport 219), and threatening strikes against masters who employed foreigners (Rappaport 220). It was like a union for journeymen. Something happened during the fifteenth century, in which the fraternities underwent a striking transformation (Rappaport 220), and by the sixteenth century London’s yeomanries included journeymen and householders—the employees and employers (Rappaport 220).
The yeomanry of the Renaissance was a somewhat autonomous organization within a Company (Rappaport 219), and included the men who were not elite enough to be in the livery, which was the other sub-organization within the Company. The livery included only one-fifth of all members, making the yeomanry the bulk of the company (Rappaport 219). The yeomanry was able to stay somewhat autonomous by providing its own income through the collection of quarterage dues (Archer 108). Among the responsibilities of the yeomanry was enforcing many of the regulations governing a company’s craft or trade (Rappaport 224).
In the Great Companies, there was a separate livery of the yeomanry called the bachelors (Rappaport 226). This special livery would be created only on the year when a member of that company was going to serve as Lord Mayor (Rappaport 226). The bachelors were responsible for attend[ing] upon the Lord Mayor at his going to Westminster to take his oath and certain other days of like service (Rappaport 226). On the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show, the bachelors would also be required to dress in special costume (Rappaport 226). Being elected to bachelor status marked an important distinction between the men of substance who might eventually attain the livery of their company and the lesser artisans and shopkeeps who never would (Manley 262-163).
Movement was possible between the members of the yeomanry and the elite livery. One could be promoted from the yeomanry to the livery (Rappaport 221), but only the wealthiest householders were chosen (Rappaport 256). It was expensive to stay in the livery. Upon being chosen, one would have to pay an admission fee (Rappaport 257), and buy a fur-lined cloak and satin hood for formal occasions (Rappaport 218). If a liveryman’s funds were dwindling, he could find himself back in the yeomanry (Rappaport 258).
The responsibilities of a liveryman included serving on committees which performed important administrative, [and] deliberative Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (KL)[…] functions, as well as overseeing lawsuits and appeals for action to the crown or parliament (Rappaport 255). The elite liverymen, the assistants, were required to attend court, and serve periodically as warden or master (Rappaport 268).
Since the Companies were so wealthy, the Tudor monarchy was heavily dependent on the good will of the City because the City’s wealth was a source of financing more dependable than Parliament (Manley 219). When a monarch demanded money from a Company, it would collect from its members to meet the sum of the request. When Queen Mary demanded a loan from the City in 1558, the Grocers Company had to come up with £7 555. These compulsory loans were called Benevolences (Grocers’ 10). Queen Elizabeth frequently demanded money, which she would borrow free of interest, and then was graciously pleased to lend at 8 per cent! (Grocers’ 10). The Stuart family, however, was the worst for borrowing huge sums of money and seldom repaying it. To fund James I, the Companies supplied the money first from their common stock, then by assessment, at first voluntary, subsequently compulsory of individual members (Grocers’ 10).
Despite being constantly squeezed for money, the Companies were still able to partake in good works, such as establishing almshouses and providing pensions (Archer 120). The Companies would also assist widows of Company men, and help the younger members of the Company by providing two- to four-years interest-free loans of ten to fifty pounds to young men in need of capital to begin businesses (Rappaport 39).
The livery companies have been described as the rock upon which the life of the City was built (Grocers’ 1), and their presence certainly helped London achieve great status during the Renaissance.

About the Grocers’ Company

The Grocers’ Company, one of the Twelve Great Companies, emerged from a much older Company—the Pepperers. The Pepperers were first mentioned in 1180 as the Gilda Piperariorum (Grocers’ 1). Unlike many other guilds, the Pepperers did not specialize in one particular area, but rather in many areas. They were recognised as general traders who bought and sold Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (KL)[…] all kinds of merchandise (Grocers’ 2). They were also the guild that was in charge of weighing merchandise in the City (Grocers’ 2), and they had access to warehouses and shops for the purpose of garbling or cleaning spices, drugs and kindred commodities (Grocers’ 2). Garbling meant to check for fraud by cleansing good that were sold by weight, like spices and drugs (Grocers’ 6).
The first mention of the Grocers is in 1373, when they were referred to as the Company of Grossers (Grocers’ 6). It was not until 1376, after revising their ordinances, that they came to be known as the Grocers of London (Les Grocers de Loundres) (Grocers’ 6).
As was customary, the Grocers had a patron saint—Saint Antony of Coma who was credited with the power of curing skin diseases (Grocers’ 5). The reason for adopting Antony of Coma as their patron saint had little to do with curative powers and more to do with location. The Pepperers occupied Soper’s Lane and attended the church at the south end of the lane, the Church of St. Antolin (another form of Antony) (Grocers’ 5), and because of their membership in the church, St. Antony of Coma seemed a natural choice for a patron saint.
The Grocers Company was very wealthy during the reign of James I. When one of their members, Sir Thomas Middleton (not to be confused with Thomas Middleton the writer) was chosen to be the Lord Mayor in 1613, the Grocers were prepared to spend almost £900 on their pageant, The Triumphs of Truth (Unwin 278). The costs included: £200 for drapery, including blue gown sleeves for 124 aldermen; £48 for 288 white staves for the whifflers (men employed to keep the way clear for a procession), and for 780 torches; £67 for mercery; and £282 for the poetry, scene painting, and general upholstery. On top of these costs, the Grocers paid the wages of the city waits, 32 trumpeters, and 18 flourishers of long swords. The cost of the loot to be tossed into the crowd was also enormous as the Grocers provided 500 loaves of sugar, 36 lbs. of nutmegs, 24 lbs. of dates, and 114 lbs. of ginger (Unwin 278).
As a salute to the Grocers’ Company, Thomas Middleton, author of The Triumphs of Truth, followed the tradition of including islands garnished with fruit trees, drugs, and spiceries. The tropical island was a permanent feature of the Lord Mayor’s Shows in the seventeenth century (Unwin 271), as it served to indicate the Grocersassociation with the East from which they imported their drugs and spices (Blackham 41).
The Grocers were fond of Middleton’s work, and they hired him again in 1617, and several times more until his death in 1627.

About the Author

Thomas Middleton was born to William and Anne Middleton in London in 1580 (Heinemann 49). His father was a prosperous brickmason and landlord, according to David M. Holmes (Holmes xvi), or a bricklayer and builder, according to Margot Heinemann (Heinemann 49). William died in 1586, when Middleton and his sister Avice were just young (Heinemann 49).
His mother remarried a broken grocer named Thomas Harvey. Harvey spent the Middleton’s money recklessly, which resulted in a series of lawsuits against him (Heinemann 49).
At the age of eighteen, Middleton matriculated at Queen’s College Oxford (Holmes xvii), but he never finished his degree (Heinemann 49). In 1601, he decided to accompany the players in hopes of making some money (Heinemann 50), and ended up marrying Mary Marbecke (Heinemann 50), the sister of one of the Admiral’s Men. They had a son called Edward (Holmes xvii).
Critical opinion of Middleton varies. His works have been described in many different ways. His comedies have been called cynical, amoral, disgusting, boring, and profoundly serious moral fables, and his tragedies, according to T.S. Eliot, have no point of view (qtd. in Heinemann 1). Some sense a strong Calvinist bias in his work (Heinemann 1), while others feel his work suggests that he came from a moderate Puritan background (Heinemann 51).
During his early years as a dramatist, Middleton wrote primarily for the boy players, particularly for the Children of St. Paul’s for whom he did six plays (Heinemann 63). Middleton also wrote for the Children of the Revels, Lady Elizabeth’s, and Prince Charles’ companies, and, from 1615 onward, the King’s Men (Holmes xviii). His play A Game at Chess (1624), a sharp satire on royal policy, was the greatest box-office success of the whole Jacobean period (Heinemann 2). With such success came fame, or, in Middleton’s case, infamy. The King heard of the satirical A Game at Chess and ordered it to be suppressed and the dramatist punished (Heinemann 130). As a result of this decree, Middleton was forced into hiding in 1624 (Heinemann 130).
Middleton’s first experience with writing civic pageants was in 1603, when he contributed a speech for Zeal in Dekker’s entertainment for the Royal Entry of James I into London (Heinemann 124). He proceeded to write his own pageant in 1613 entitled The Triumphs of Truth. Critics assert that this pageant was his best work for the civic stage. It was his finest and his most elaborate pageant, as well as the most expensive mayoral pageant of the Renaissance (Bergeron 179).
It is interesting to note that Middleton sneers at fellow dramatist, Anthony Munday, in the very beginning of the text, and later acknowledges him for providing apparrell and porters. Middleton takes the opportunity to hurl a few barbs at his rival in The Triumphs of Love and Antiquity, written for the Skinners in 1619 (Bergeron 189), but then collaborates with Munday in 1621 (Bergeron 191), and again in 1623 (Bergeron 195). Perhaps their rivalry was just for show, or maybe they were forced to collaborate because they needed the work and the money.
The Grocers’ Company hired Middleton once again to write the Lord Mayor’s Show of 1617. The Triumphs of Honour and Industry (for the record, six of the seven shows written by Middleton were entitled The Triumphs of), was more conservative and traditional than The Triumphs of Truth, and the result is a rather undistinguished work (Bergeron 186). Distinguished or not, Middleton was paid handsomely for his efforts.
Middleton wrote seven Lord Mayor’s Pageants in all: The Triumphs of Truth (1613), The Triumphs of Honour and Industry (1617), The Triumphs of Love and Antiquity (1619), The Sun in Aries (1621), The Triumphs of Honour and Virtue (1622), The Triumphs of Integrity (1623), and The Triumphs of Health and Propsperity (1626) (Tumbleson 57). He was also the author or co-author of some twenty plays, as well as several court masques (Heinemann vii). In addition to his creative work, Middleton was appointed City Chronologer in 1620, a position he held until his death in 1627 (Holmes xviii).


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Critical Companion to The Triumphs of Truth. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 30 Jun. 2021,

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Critical Companion to The Triumphs of Truth. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 6.6. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed June 30, 2021.

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2021. Critical Companion to The Triumphs of Truth. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 6.6). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

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Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
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ED  - Jenstad, Janelle
T1  - Critical Companion to The Triumphs of Truth
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 6.6
PY  - 2021
DA  - 2021/06/30
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

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