Tooth-Drawer, The

Anon. >(1658)

Historical Records

Naps upon Parnassus (1658)

The list of "Books very lately Printed, and in the Press now printing" appended to Flatman's Naps upon Parnassus (1658) (sig.H) includes:

7. The Tooth-drawer; a Comedy.

A running title reads "Books sold by Nath. Brook at the Angell in Cornhill".

The new world of English words (1658)

The list of "Books in the Presse, and ready for Printing" at the end of The new world of English words (1658) includes:

7. The Tooth-drawer: a Comedy.

Wit and Drollery (1661)

Nathaniel Brook's list of "Books in the Press and now printing" at the end of Wit and Drollery (1661) includes:

6. The Tooth-drawer, a Comedy.

For further discussion of these and other versions of Brooke's advertisement, see Brooke's list.

Theatrical Provenance

Unknown. Harbage lists this play in a supplementary appendix.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Unknown. See For What It's Worth

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Commenting on the title's appearance in Nathaniel Brook's list of books in print, Bentley notes: "The advertisement must have been at least premature, for there is no evidence that the play was ever printed, though one would assume that Brook had a manuscript. Nothing else is known of a play of the title" (5.1422-23).

For What It's Worth

Scoggin's Jests

Whilst the play was evidently about what we would now call a dentist, the fact of its being a comedy is rather unusual. Whereas most EEBO-TCP results contain only one or two hits for "tooth drawer", and refer only incidentally to a dentist pulling someone’s tooth, a 1626 text, The first and best part of Scoggins iests full of witty mirth and pelasant shifts, done by him in France, and other places: being a preseruatiue against melancholy contains a comic episode involving a tooth-drawer, which may provide a clue as to how dentistry might furnish a comic narrative. The section in question is entitled "How Scogin did draw a tooth-drawers tooth", and involves giving the tooth-drawer a taste of his own medicine (Scogin is a prankster figure in this text):

ON a time there went a tooth-drawer round about the country, with a banner ful of teeth (as blind Physitians and Surgeons doe now adayes) the which tooth-drawer said, he wold draw out a tooth without any paine, which was false, for when he pulled out some mens teeth, he pulled out a peece of the cheek-bone; & tooke many mens money, & did much harme, and little good[.] At the last he came to Scogins house, & Scogin hearing of his doings, caused him to come in, and said, Sir you be called a cunning drawer of a tooth. I haue paine in a tooth, and I would it were out of my head: sir, said the tooth-drawer, & you will, I will haue it out without any paine. I pray you said Scogin, how will you doe? sir, sayd he, I will raise the flesh about the tooth, and then with a strong threed I will pull it out: sir, said Scogin, I can pul out a tooth so: and because you say it is no paine to pul out a tooth so, I wil first pul out one of your teeth. Nay sir, said the tooth-drawer, I haue no paine in my teeth. Although you haue not, said Scogin. I will pull a tooth out of your head, and if you haue no paine, you shall haue an Angell for your tooth: but if you haue paine, you shall haue nothing: sir, said the tooth-drawer, I will haue none of my teeth pulled out. Scogin said to his seruant, bring me a paire of manacles, for surely I will pull out one of thy teeth, ere that thou shall pul out one of mine; therefore sit down, and take it patiently, lest thou be put to greater pains. The tooth-drawer sate him downe with an euill will, & Scogin did raise the flesh about the tooth-drawers tooth, that it was in such case, that the water did runne downe the tooth-drawers eyes. Scogin said, doth the water runne forth of your eyes for ioy, or else for paine? The tooth-drawer said for ioy, for I trust to get an Angell of you, Bee it, said Scogin. Scogin did knit a strong threed about the tooth-drawers tooth, and gaue it a great twitch. Oh, said the tooth-drawer what doe you feele pain, said Scogin? yea said the tooth-drawer, you pull not quickly. Then said Scogin, you haue lost your Angell: Nay, said the tooth-drawer: well, said Scogin, the tooth shall come now I trow, and Scogin did twitch and pul hard at the tooth, and pulled it out. Out alasse said the tooth-drawer: Why said Scogin cry you out? Marry saith the tooth-drawer, the deuill would cry out of this paine: Sir, said Scogin you taught me how I should doe, and you haue lost your Angell: and seeing your cunning is no better, I will haue neuer a tooth pulled out now: and if you pull any of my neighbours teeth after such sort as you haue done, if you come in my walke, I will pull out all the teeth in your head. Eat and drinke ere you goe, and so farewell. (37-39)

The Commedia tradition

In Italy, tooth-drawers sometimes featured in Commedia dell’Arte scenarios. Il Ciarlone (1531) is a sketch for a knockabout comedy, written in Sienese dialect, and starring an itinerant tooth-drawer. It climaxes, of course, in a scene where he attempts to pull another character’s tooth out on stage: “The extraction of his tooth is lengthy, painful, and in the end, violent when the peasant refuses to pay and they come to blows, with the peasant getting the upper hand.” (Gentilcore, 30). Scala’s Il Cavadente (The Tooth-drawer), published in 1611, is a scenario for a commedia dell’arte performance in which Arlecchino disguises himself as a toothdrawer and removes four of Pantalone’s teeth, on stage, while Pantalone cries out in pain. Pantalone finally discovers that it is Arlecchino in disguise and chases him offstage, throwing a chair after him. David Gentilcore, describing these plays, also describes the Italian visual traditions of depicting toothdrawers:

In visual representation toothdrawers are always shown in action, either struggling with a tooth still in the sufferer’s mouth or holding it triumphantly on high. These are grotesque images.
(Gentilcore, 30-31, qtn from 31)

Works Cited

Flatman, Thomas. Naps upon Parnassus. London, : Printed by express order from the wits, for N. Brook, at the Angel in Cornhill, 1658.
The first and best part of Scoggins iests full of witty mirth and pleasant shifts, done by him in France, and other places: being a preseruatiue against melancholy. Gathered by Andrew Boord, Doctor of Physicke. London : Printed [by Miles Flesher] for Francis Williams, 1626. EEBO.
Gentilcore, David. Medical Charlatanism in Early Modern Italy. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006.
[Phillips, Edward]. The new world of English words, or, A general dictionary containing the interpretations of such hard words as are derived from other languages ... together with all those terms that relate to the arts and sciences ... : to which are added the significations of proper names, mythology, and poetical fictions, historical relations, geographical descriptions of most countries and cities of the world ... / collected and published by E.P. London: Printed by E. Tyler for Nath. Brooke ..., 1658. EEBO.
Wit and drollery joviall poems / corrected and much amended, with new additions, by Sir J.M. ... Sir W.D. ... and the most refined wits of the age. London: Printed for Nathanial Brook ..., 1661. EEBO.

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; extra material from Matthew Steggle, University of Bristol, 19 November 2019.