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date: 23 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The most regularly performed of Thomas Middleton's plays since its revival in 1961 has been The Changeling. The majority of productions, and the ones that received the best reviews, emphasize a romantic relationship between the characters Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores. Literary critics, too, have begun to assume a repressed sexual attraction in Beatrice-Joanna for the radical other of De Flores. Barker and Nicol take exception to this interpretation of the play, finding it questionable on contemporary feminist terms for its erotic treatment of the central scene, in which De Flores demands that Beatrice-Joanna reward his murder of Piracquo with sexual favours, which risks affirming that Middleton and Rowley's heroine actually desires a rape she pleads against in the lines they wrote for her. This article suggests that it is questionable for another reason: this romantic, or at least erotic, reading of the play may be emotionally ahistorical. It arises, at least in part, from an essentialization of the emotional registers of tragedy, a process which resulted from the domination of that dramatic genre by Shakespeare.

Keywords: Thomas Middleton, plays, Changeling, tragedy, Shakespeare

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