By: Lording Barry (1580-1629)
Ram Alley, or Merry Tricks, is a bawdy comedy by Lording Barry, a contemporary of Shakespeare. The production bankrupted Barry, landed him in debtor's jail, and set him off on a life of piracy. The action of Ram Alley takes place in a disreputable London lane where lawyers, lords, and ladies rub shoulders with prostitutes and vagabonds. One 19th century editor complained that it was "full of gross passages, allusions, and innuendoes," but more recent commentators have seen past the risque gags and recognised the play's wit, complexity, and intelligence. Ram Alley has only been revived three times since 1611, but recently came close to topping a poll of academics to find the best 'forgotten' play by an Elizabethan/Jacobean dramatist.