Title: The Changeling
Author: Thomas Middleton and William Rowley
Genre: Tragedy / Classics
Date: 2006 (1622)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama
Started: 10th January 2019
Completed: 10th January 2019
Summary: “The next good mood I find my father in, I’ll get him quite discarded.” With these chillingly offhand words, Beatrice-Joanna, the spoilt daughter of a powerful nobleman, plots to get rid of the family servant who has crossed her once too often.
The Changeling is a Jacobean tragedy written by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley. The play was licensed for performance on the 7 May 1622 and was first published in 1652.
Thomas Middleton was an English Jacobean playwright and poet. He was a successful and prolific playwright during the Jacobean tragedy and, unusually, found success with both his comedies and tragedies.
William Rowley was an English Jacobean dramatist, best known for works written in collaboration with more successful writers. Rowley was an actor-playwright who specialised in playing clown characters, especially fat-clown roles.
I always enjoy dual plots, especially the use of a comic subplot in a tragic play. Some would disagree with me but I do think it heightens the tragic effect of the main plot. The main plot was darkly enjoyable with Beatrice-Joanna plotting to murder Alonzo so that she can be with the man she loves, Alsemero. Although Beatrice-Joanna convinces De Flores to carry out the murder, rather than getting her hands dirty, I think Middleton and Rowley created a wonderfully devious female character who has her own independence and agency. She’s clever, manipulative, and ruthless and I liked that about her.
I think it’s clear that there are two writers in this play, each of their scenes having a mark of their own unique writing style, but it doesn’t detract from the play. Actually, collaborations were incredibly common during this time so it doesn’t seem odd to read a collaboration.
I didn’t enjoy the subplot as much as I expected to. I do usually love comic subplots but, sometimes, they can be difficult to read because it doesn’t work on the page. They almost always work when performed though so I’m giving Rowley and Middleton the benefit of the doubt here.
Overall, I think The Changeling is a great example of how collaboration between writers worked in the early modern period and this play shows that there was life after Shakespeare. It’s one of the best tragedies of the Jacobean period and very much worth reading. Both Middleton and Rowley were excellent writers and I’d highly recommend reading both of their work, especially Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy which is utterly fantastic if a tad gruesome.
Read for The Classics Club