Thomas Nashe, Piers Penniless his Supplication to the Devil

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Nashe described

Pierce Penilesse

as “most saleable”, boasting in 1596 that it had gone through six editions “at the least” (3: 35). It appears that Nashe was, characteristically, exaggerating, since only five early editions are extant (Nashe 1: 140), but the remark testifies both to his pride in being a professional author and to the text’s popularity.



Pierce, the evidently educated narrator, complains, in prose and verse, of his poverty and misery, before bemoaning the neglect of learning in general. Then, hearing of “a certaine blind Retayler called the Divell”, who “would lette one for a neede have a thousand poundes uppon a Statute Merchant of his soule” (Nashe 1: 161), he decides to do business. Seeking the Devil among the lawyers in Westminster Hall

2889 words

Citation: Roberts, Peter Brynmor. "Piers Penniless his Supplication to the Devil". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 23 July 2012 [, accessed 15 June 2024.]

2807 Piers Penniless his Supplication to the Devil 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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