Critique

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Elizabethan dramatist Thomas Dekker was an extremely prolific writer, working often in collaboration with other playwrights. From a passage in Henslowe’s diary, it is known that Middleton had a hand in Part One of this play; but scholars are uncertain as to the precise amount that he contributed. The main plot, as will be seen, has a strangely inverted resemblance to that of ROMEO AND JULIET, while the subplot, although the scene is laid in Milan, gives a realistic glimpse of London shop life of that time. Both plots are, by modern standards, exaggerated and improbable. Lamb found the play “offensively crowded” with diatribes against the harlot’s profession; the reader of today, however, will not be shocked. Rather, unless he is a specialist in Elizabethan drama, he is likely to be bogged down in the plot complications, and he will hardly agree with Hazlitt that the “contrivance” of the main plot is “affecting and romantic.”