display | more...

English dramatist, born 1580, died 1627. Educated at Queen's College, Oxford, which he left without a degree because of financial difficulties; he immediately started working with Philip Henslowe's company alongside such writers as Webster and Munday.

Much of his early work is lost, but included various poems, satirical pamphlets, and collaborative plays. Probably the author of The Revenger's Comedy of 1607. His most famous and important plays are the tragedies Women beware Women and the masterpiece, cowritten with William Rowley (though Middleton was probably the 'senior partner'): The Changeling. Other notable works include A Game At Chess, an elaborate satire of contemporary Anglo-Spanish relations, which caused a sensation when performed in 1624.

Perhaps because his language was usually much more direct and less poetically elaborate than many of his contemporaries, he was probably not taken as seriously as he deserved to be in his own lifetime. For example, in Ben Jonson's list of noted playwrights of the time, he is the one remarkable exception: no other currently revered dramatist of that era is left out. If Shakespeare and Marlowe were Pinter and Stoppard (and i'm not saying this analogy has any significance outside of their relative positions in the contemporary pantheon) then Middleton was probably seen as a bit of an Alan Ayckbourn - which is manifestly unfair. I consider The Changeling, as I've said elsewhere, one of the greatest tragedies in the language, and Women Beware Women is pretty damn good too. His critical revival in the twentieth century began with T.S. Eliot, just like Marvell's, and progressed from there: because the language is more accessible than much renaissance drama, Middleton's plays have proved fairly popular on stage and screen in the past forty years. Here's hoping it stays that way.

some information gleaned from N.W.Bawcutt's introduction to the Revels edition of The Changeling.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.