A Trick to Catch the Old One Essay - Critical Essays

Thomas Middleton


(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Thomas Middleton, next to Ben Jonson, was the greatest realist among the dramatists writing during the reign of James I. The realism is not reinforced in Middleton’s work by a close attention to the structure of the drama, as is so noteworthy in the Jonsonian plays. Middleton, a commoner himself and holder of a post for many years under the Lord Mayor of London, was exceedingly interested in the life of the people who lived within the city, rather than in the people of the court and the fashionable world. Where Middleton got the plot for this play is not known; possibly he gathered it out of incidents that actually occurred in London. On the other hand, the influence of this play on Philip Massinger’s A NEW WAY TO PAY OLD DEBTS is obvious. The greatest merits of the Middleton play are its intrigues, its hustle and bustle of incident, and its propensity to give good fun.