Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Alicante. Mediterranean port city near Valencia in eastern Spain in which the play is set. The play opens outdoors, near a church by the port, with the Valencian nobleman Alsemero delaying his departure for Malta and getting drawn into Beatrice-Joanna’s adulterous and murderous plots. The rest of the play is wholly restricted to interiors, as if to suggest women’s domestic confinement.


*Valencia. Capital city of the eastern region of Spain from which Alsemero comes. Valencia is about one hundred miles north of Alicante—a distance great enough to make Alsemero a “stranger” to Beatrice-Joanna’s father, Vermandero, who hesitates to give him a tour of his castle.

Vermandero’s castle

Vermandero’s castle. Alicante headquarters of Governor Vermandero and the setting for all the scenes in the play following its opening. The castle citadel into which Beatrice-Joanna invites her lover Alsemero represents Beatrice-Joanna herself, with the underground vault in which De Flores murders her fiancé reflecting her sinful depths.

Dr. Alibius’s house

Dr. Alibius’s house. Home of Alibius, a jealous old doctor who keeps his lovely young wife, Isabella, confined at home with his mad patients. The madness and folly observed in Alibius’s institution form a grotesque reflection of the madness and folly of the outside world. The determination of Isabella to resist “lunatic” adulterous propositions counterpoints Beatrice-Joanna’s moral defeat at the castle. The nominally Spanish madhouse actually evokes England’s Bethlehem Hospital, an asylum in Bishopsgate, London—especially in a line referring to “the chimes of Bedlam [Bethlehem].” Thus, virtue triumphs in a more English setting.


Hell. Ultimate destination to which Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores are doomed, evoked twice by reference to a country game called “barley-brake,” in which couples hold hands and are forbidden to separate, while trying to catch others who run past them as their replacements in the central space called “hell.”

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

Jacobean Drama

Jacobean drama in England covers the period from 1603 to 1625, coinciding with the reign of King...

(The entire section is 645 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)


There are many images of eyes and references to sight, many of which are used with unconscious irony by...

(The entire section is 616 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

Jacobean Age: In 1623, the first folio edition of Shakespeare is published. It contains thirty-six plays, eighteen of which are...

(The entire section is 235 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Some critics have argued that Beatrice is unconsciously attracted to De Flores from the beginning. Is there any evidence from the play to...

(The entire section is 173 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

The Changeling was adapted for film in Great Britain in 1998. The film was directed by Marcus Thompson and starred Ian Dury, Billy...

(The entire section is 27 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1611) is often considered Middleton’s finest comedy. It is a skillfully plotted, cynical...

(The entire section is 212 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)


Eliot, T. S., “Thomas Middleton,” in Selected Essays, Faber, 1958, pp. 161–70.


(The entire section is 317 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bradbrook, M. C. Themes and Conventions of Elizabethan Tragedy. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Analysis of the drama of the period, including its staging and conventions of plot and character. Chapter on Middleton finds him untypical in his simplicity of language, but subtlety of implication.

Brittin, Norman A. Thomas Middleton. New York: Twayne, 1972. A good basic guide to Middleton’s drama. It claims that he is the most important writer of the Jacobean comedy of manners. Sensitive analysis of The Changeling and a useful summary of critical assessments.

Farr, Dorothy M. Thomas Middleton and the Drama of Realism. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. Traces Middleton’s development, initiated with the aid of Rowley in The Changeling, toward a new form of tragic drama, which, Farr claims, is close to the modern theater.

Jump, J. D. “Middleton’s Tragic Comedies.” In The Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol 2. New York: Penguin Books, 1964. Focus is the two tragedies, Women Beware Women and The Changeling, with emphasis on the quality of the verse and the realism of the drama.

Mulryne, J. R. Writers and Their Work: Thomas Middleton. New York: Longman, 1979. Surveys the body of Middleton’s work, including The Changeling. Useful bibliography.