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...
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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...
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Middleton was born in 1580 in London, England. Although most scholars list April 18 as his christening date, most are unable to confirm his actual birth date. The playwright began writing at an early age, publishing at least three nondramatic pieces as a teenager. He attended Queen's College, Oxford, starting in 1598, but apparently left without a degree after two years. The first record of his dramatic work comes in 1602 with Caesar's Fall or The Two Shapes, which he wrote with Anthony Munday, John Webster, and Michael Drayton. Especially in the early part of his career, Middleton often collaborated with other playwrights as part of his work for the famous producer Philip Henslowe.
Because of his collaborations, some of Middleton's plays have only been fully attributed to him since the 1970s, when Middleton scholarship increased significantly. These include The Puritan (1607); The Revenger's Tragedy (1607); and A Yorkshire Tragedy (1608). Middleton's plays often feature a cast of characters who try to connive or deceive each other, as they do in A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, which Middleton most likely wrote sometime between 1611 to 1613, and which was first published in 1630. Other well-known comedies include Michaelmas Term (1607) and A Trick to Catch the Old One (1608). However, while Middleton's comedies have been enjoyed by many, two of his tragedies—Women Beware Women (performed in 1621) and...
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Biography (Drama for Students)
Thomas Middleton was born in 1580 in London, England; his exact date of birth is unknown, but he was baptized on April 18. His father was a prosperous bricklayer who died when Middleton was five. Middleton attended grammar school and in 1598 he matriculated at Queen’s College, Oxford, where he studied from 1598 to 1601. There are no records indicating whether he ever received a degree.
Middleton married Magdalen Marbeck in 1602, and returned to London the following year. By this time, he was writing plays for the prominent theatre manager, Philip Henslowe. His earliest surviving independent play is Blurt, Master Constable (1602). From 1602 to 1607, he penned many plays for boy’s companies, especially the Boys of St. Paul’s. Many of these plays were citizen comedies (also called city comedies), which were set in London, featured mostly lower- and middle-class characters, were moral in tone, and which glorified the city of London. Examples of some popular Middleton citizen comedies are Michaelmas Term (c. 1606), A Trick to Catch the Old One (c. 1605), and A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1611), which is probably Middleton’s most widely read play today. Middleton also wrote tragedies, including The Revenger’s Tragedy (1607)—although the authorship of this play is sometimes questioned—and A Yorkshire Tragedy (1608).
It appears that from 1608 to 1610, Middleton struggled to make a living and may...
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