Thomas Middleton (c.1580-1627)

Portrait of Middleton           Thomas Middleton was the son of a London master bricklayer. He was educated first at Queen's College,Oxford, and was then admitted at Gray's Inn in 1593. He published three volumes of verse by 1600, and it is believed that he had already begun to write for the stage at that time. Certainly he was a working playwright by 1602, when he is mentioned in Henslowe's Diary, and his earliest surviving independent play, Blurt, Master Constable  (1602) was printed.
          Middleton was an industrious, prolific writer, writing for both Boys of St. Paul's and the Admiral's Men. His citizen comedies, written for boys' companies between 1602 and 1607, include A Mad World, My Masters  (c.1605), A Trick to Catch the Old One  (c.1605) and Michaelmas Term  (c.1606). He collaborated with Dekker on the comedies The Honest Whore
[Part I]  (1604), The Family of Love  (1603-1607), and The Roaring Girl  (1610). For the adult companies, he also wrote his masterpiece, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1611). These comedies expose bourgeois vice in contemporary London in a satiric tone.
          From 1613 on, Middleton wrote many City of London pageants for the Lord Mayor, and served as City Chronologer from 1620 until his death in 1627. Yet, he continued to write plays as well; three collaborations with Rowley are worth mention: A Fair Quarrel  (pub.1617), The World Tossed at Tennis  (pub.1620) and the superb tragicomedy The Changeling  (1622).
          Middleton's patriotic drama, A Game at Chess,  (1624), unprecedentedly successful, was closed after nine performances due to its inflammatory anti-Spanish content and the Spanish Ambassador's outrage. The writer and the actors were reprimanded and fined. One of Middleton's last plays, Women Beware Women  (c.1625), was a tragedy where the final “slaughter” scene verged on comedy, a matter which has persuaded some critics that Middleton was also the author of The Revenger's Tragedy  (1607).   Middleton died of natural causes at Newington Butts and was buried there on July 4, 1627.

Works and Criticism:

Asp, C. A Study of Thomas Middleton's Tragicomedies (1974)
Bullen, A. H. Works of Thomas Middleton (8 vol., 1885–86)
Camoin, François André. The Revenge Convention in Tourneur, Webster, and Middleton (1972)
Heinemann, Margot. Puritanism and Theatre : Thomas Middleton and Opposition Drama
                                         Under the Early Stuarts (1980)
Howard-Hill, T.H. Middleton's 'Vulgar Pasquin' : Essays on A Game at Chess (1995)
Kistner, A. L Middleton's Tragic Themes (1984)
Mulryne, J. R. Thomas Middleton (1979)
Steen, Susan Jayne. Ambrosia in an Earthern Vessel : Three Centuries of Audience and Reader
                                      Response to the Works of Thomas Middleton (1993)
White, Martin. Middleton and Tourneur (1992)

Middleton | Works | Links | Essays | Books | 17th C. Eng. Lit.



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