Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
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.)
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
For about three centuries little definite information was available about the life of Thomas Middleton. Even now a full-scale biography could hardly be compiled. E. K. Chambers believed him to be one of two Thomas Middletons who entered Gray’s Inn in the 1590’s. Mark Eccles, in 1931, established the currently accepted identification and furnished biographical facts.
Thomas Middleton was the son of William Middleton, a London bricklayer with a coat of arms. Thomas entered Queen’s College, Oxford, in 1598. His first published work, The Wisdom of Solomon, Paraphrased, was followed by other pamphlets in prose and verse.
He began his career as a playwright with Philip Henslowe’s company, the record of his employment giving the year as 1602. Later he composed for other companies, including Paul’s Boys and the King’s Men. Both the canon and the chronology of his dramatic work are very uncertain. Some of his works were written in collaboration; some were revised by other playwrights years after the original writing. The Revenger’s Tragedy, for example, has been attributed to Cyril Tourneur in the past, but current scholarship points to Middleton as the author. Several of his plays are lost. He took part in writing entertainments for official occasions. In the 1604 edition of The Magnificent Entertainment Given to King James (presented in 1603), Thomas Dekker, ignoring the contribution of his enemy Ben Jonson to...
(The entire section is 503 words.)