Watch a short video of the trunk and its contents.
A Pedlar's Trunk
Size: H (closed):345mm, W:850mm, L:370mm
Made in: Unknown
Made by: Unknown
Material: Wood, Pony skin, Paper, Textiles
There were all sorts of people travelling the roads in Shakespeare’s day. Many were just tramps or petty thieves but walking amongst them were some people known as ‘pedlars’.
Although they operated on the fringes of society, pedlars were welcome arrivals in the towns and villages of England (land?) because, at a time when a village shop was not common, they brought with them all manner of fine wares for sale. Pedlars also brought with them news, scandal and gossip from other villages…and once they had made their sales, they would be off to the next village for more of the same.
This particular pedlar’s trunk holds a secret that its owner certainly wouldn't have wanted to be known to people in the street. For the owner of this trunk disguise wasn’t just a dramatic device used by actors on the stage, it was a matter of life or death.
This object is from Stonyhurst College
'Any silk, any thread, Any toys for your head,Of the new'st and fin'st, fin'st wear-a? Come to the pedlar; Money's a meddler That doth utter all men's wear-a'
A Winter's Tale, Act 4 Scene 4
- This chest is typical of a type used by pedlars (travelling salesmen) who sold threads, sewing materials and small household items
- The contents of the trunk contain virtually everything necessary for a Catholic priect to perform Mass
- Disguise in Shakespeare's plays is a fairly light-hearted affair and is used frequently in his comedy plays
- Perhaps the only disguise of any importance in the tragedies is Edgar's role as Poor Tom in King Lear
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