The Life and Death of Jack Straw chronicles the main events of the 1381 Rising in England and has traditionally been viewed as a warning about the dangers of rebellion from below. While recent studies of the play have challenged this perspective, they have focused chiefly on the drama’s portrayal of the rebels and not on the relationship between elite and popular discourses in the text. This article bridges a gap in the existing criticism by investigating the references to commonwealth and community that are made by Jack Straw’s aristocrats and commoners respectively. The article argues that the conflict between the two groups stems from their divergent interpretation of these terms in their public speeches and private exchanges.

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