Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1611) is often considered Middleton’s finest comedy. It is a skillfully plotted, cynical drama about the seamier side of life in London, as unscrupulous characters seek money, marriage, and sex. The title is a joke, since Cheapside was a notorious location in London frequented by prostitutes.
William Shakespeare’s dark comedy Measure for Measure (1604) has some similarities with The Changeling. Like De Flores, Shakespeare’s character Angelo allows his sexual obsession with a woman to lead him into sinful actions. The play also features the plot device known as the “bed trick,” in which a man is tricked into making love to a woman who is not the woman he thinks she is. Shakespeare’s play, however, ends in forgiveness rather than death.
Volpone (first performed 1606) is one of Ben Jonson’s great comic plays. It satirizes hypocrisy, greed, and self-deception, which are all unmasked in the end. Some of the characters resemble predatory birds such as the crow, vulture, and raven. Volpone is likened to a fox.
The Shakespearean Stage, 1574–1642 (2d ed., 1980), by Andrew Gurr, is a concise guide to the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre world. There are chapters on the companies, the actors, the playhouses, the audience, and how the plays were staged.
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