Most scholars believe that Thomas Middleton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside was first performed sometime between 1611 and 1613, although it was not published until 1630, when it was published in a quarto edition in England. This play, like many of Middleton's other works, details several plots carried out by unscrupulous people in search of wealth, marriage, or sex—and sometimes all three. The chaste maid of the title would have been a joke for Middleton's audiences since Cheapside was infamous at the time for its prostitutes and other lascivious people, and a chaste maid would have been hard to find. Middleton was born into London's prosperous middle class and had some exposure to most other classes as well. As a result, his plays include characters from all social levels, offering an accurate portrayal of what life was like in London at this time. In fact, some critics have gone so far as to call Middleton a realist, since he, above many other playwrights of the time, was so adept at exposing the harsh, unromanticized reality of human vice and corruption. The play is intricately plotted and consists of several stories about many families which are ultimately resolved at the same time. Because of this masterful plotting and because the play was so audacious in its exploration of the depths of human depravity—which Middleton exploited for comic purposes—many critics consider the play to be one of his finest works. A current copy of the play can be found in the paperback edition of Five Plays, which was published by Penguin USA in 1988.