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Thomas Middleton
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Thomas Middleton

Thomas Middleton (baptized April 18, 1580, died 1627) was an English Elizabethan playwright and poet. He was appointed City Chronologer of the City of London in 1620, a post that he held until his death. His successor in the post was Ben Jonson.

Middleton wrote in many genres, including tragedy, history and city comedy. His best-known plays are the passionate tragedies The Changeling (written with William Rowley) and Women Beware Women, and the cynically satiric city comedy A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. It is also widely believed that he wrote The Revenger's Tragedy, previously attributed to Cyril Tourneur, and collaborated with Shakespeare on the scenes involving the Weird Sisters and Hecate in Macbeth.

Middleton's plays are characterized by their incredible cynicism about the human race, a cynicism that is often very funny. True heroes are a rarity in Middleton; in his plays, almost every character is selfish, greedy and self-absorbed. This quality is best observed in the highly enjoyable A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, a panoramic view of a London populated entirely by sinners, in which no social rank goes unsatirized. It can also be seen in the tragedies Women Beware Women and The Revenger's Tragedy, in which entertainingly amoral Italian courtiers endlessly plot against each other, resulting in a climactic bloodbath. When Middleton does portray good people, the characters have very small roles, and are flawless to perfection. Middleton is known to have been a strong believer in Calvinism, the dominant theology of the time, which rigidly divides humanity into the damned and the elect. His drama seems to reflect that belief.

Middleton's Works

Note: The Middleton canon is beset by complications involving collaboration and debated authorship. The following list is based on that provided by the Oxford Middleton Project, a team of scholars who are editing a new edition of Middleton's complete works. All dates of plays are dates of composition, not of publication.

PLAYS

MASQUES AND ENTERTAINMENTS

POETRY

PROSE

References