Very little is known about Thomas Middleton’s life except what can be determined from legal and theater records. Middleton’s father was a bricklayer but also a gentleman who acquired a sizable estate by buying London property. Middleton was born in 1580, and when he was five, his father died, leaving an estate of more than three hundred pounds to his wife. She then wisely placed the estate in trust to three advisers to protect herself and her children from fortune hunters. Soon, she married Thomas Harvey, an adventurer who had just returned from Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition to colonize Roanoke Island. Apparently, marrying Middleton’s mother was also a business venture and apparently Harvey did not know about the trust; as a result, between 1587 and 1599 there was constant litigation as Harvey attempted to gain control of his wife’s fortune. From the age of seven on, young Middleton was in the midst of an ugly family situation that undoubtedly encouraged his later bent for satire.
At eighteen, Middleton entered Oxford, where he studied for at least two years but left without taking a degree. By 1601, he had left Oxford for his new love, the theater, and in the following year was receiving payment from Philip Henslowe, the theater owner, for collaborations with Dekker and John Webster . About this time, Middleton married Mary Marbeck, the sister of an actor.
At first, Middleton was writing for the Lord Admiral’s Men, but beginning in 1603, he began writing primarily for Paul’s Boys and the...
(The entire section is 628 words.)