The early seventeenth-century English stage witnessed an unprecedented invasion of prostitutes, courtesans and other ‘wanton’ women. The invaders in question were all fictional, nearly all were Italian and most were Venetian. Their presence in Jacobean and Caroline plays was in part due to increased cultural tourism to Italy and to the resulting travel literature, in part to the influence of Italian courtesan literature and of the urban legends that had grown around the cortigiane, and above all to the demand for sensationalism, especially blood and sex, on the part of Jacobean audiences, which Italian characters and settings always guaranteed. The table below gives a partial list of plays with courtesans and other Italian women of dubious morality as protagonists or as minor characters. The sheer number of these plays, and the central role often played in them by courtesans and ‘whores’, are such as to warrant, perhaps, the coinage of a specific theatrical sub-genre that we might term courtesan drama.