TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW:
1. When was the play first performed?
2. Where was the play first performed?
By Paul’s Boys at Paul’s playhouse, the smallest of the indoor venues.
3. Who wrote it?
Thomas Middleton (1580 to 1627), sixteen years Shakespeare’s junior, son of a
bricklayer (like Ben Jonson). Went to university (unlike Shakespeare or Jonson).
Wrote almost every kind of thing from pamphlets to poems and every kind of
play from pageants to tragedies. Interest in Middleton’s work has grown exponentially
since the publication of Taylor and Lavagnino’s monumental Collected
Works of his writings.
4. How is this playwright like Shakespeare?
Like Shakespeare, Middleton has a remarkable ear for the nuances of speech;
his characters, like people, take in the world around them and seem to be thinking
as they speak. Like Shakespeare’s, Middleton’s female characters seem as
strong or stronger than the men around them.
5. How is this playwright unlike Shakespeare?
Unlike Shakespeare, Middleton prefers to set his comedies in London, where
his plays track the lives of his characters in great social and economic detail.
Middleton’s work is invariably unsentimental. In his plays, an active sexuality
is the given and love is a quaint commodity. His comedies are overwhelmingly
in prose, while Shakespeare’s average about two-thirds verse.
6. What do scholars think about this play?
Historically this play is Middleton’s most well received comedy. Trick is a clear
forerunner of the Restoration-era Comedy of Manners and was popular for
more than a century after its first performance. For obvious reasons, it lost
favor during the Victorian century, but it has seen a number of revivals over the
last half-century. The play is a rich source of understanding about early modern
mores and attitudes toward money and marriage.
7. Is there any controversy surrounding the work?
8. What characters should I especially look for?
My own favorite is Jane, the pretended rich widow (identified in the original
text with the speech prefix “Courtesan”), who is an unusual portrait of the sexually
experienced woman in a mutually beneficial partnership with an ex-lover.
9. What scene should I especially look for?
The play abounds with funny scenes of greedy people falling all over themselves
to get the rich widow, but I particularly enjoy the one in which Pecunius Lucre,
Witgood’s uncle, interrogates the Host to find out about her.
10. What is the language like?
Witty prose, written in a way that actors can have great fun with it.
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Antony and Cleopatra
Thursday, July 30, 2015, 7:30 pm
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