*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. 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.”
Jacobean drama in England covers the period from 1603 to 1625, coinciding with the reign of King James I. The Jacobean professional theatre has been described by David Farley-Hills in Jacobean Drama as “the most brilliant and dynamic the world has seen.” The dominant figure during the first part of the Jacobean period was William Shakespeare (1564–1616). Although many of Shakespeare’s plays were written during the reign of Elizabeth I, some of his greatest works appeared in the first decade of the Jacobean age, including the tragedies of Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra, and the romances Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. During this decade, Shakespeare’s preeminence was challenged by other dramatists, including Ben Jonson (1572–1637), George Chapman (c. 1560–1634), John Marston (c. 1575 or 1576–1634), Middleton, John Webster (c. 1580–c. 1625), and John Fletcher (1579–1625).
The Jacobean theatre enjoyed the rich legacy bequeathed by the Elizabethan age: a public used to attending plays and to paying for the privilege; a number of permanent theatres, both large and small; and a system that enabled those involved in writing and putting on plays to gain some financial reward from doing so. The largest theatres were open-air buildings such as the Globe, which could accommodate an audience of several thousand. The Globe was made famous as the theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. Other large theatres in London were the Fortune, the Curtain, and the Hope. There were also smaller, covered theatres, such as Paul’s and Blackfriars. Paul’s had room for an audience of only about a hundred; the capacity of Blackfriars was about seven hundred.
The Phoenix, the theatre where The Changeling premiered, was a small private theatre on Drury Lane. Built in 1609 to stage cockfights, and thus originally called the Cockpit, the building was...
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