Article Title

Fertility and Comic Form in A Chaste Maid In Cheapside


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

When Thomas Middleton wrote A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1611-1613), his finest and most complex comic drama, he was already a practiced and successful private theater playwright. In such plays as Michaelmas Term, A Mad World, My Masters, and A Trick to Catch the Old One he had helped to perfect the form of city comedy that was so fashionable in early Jacobean London, reflecting, as it did, the intellectual sophistication, moral scepticism, and taste for irony of its educated audience. In composing A Chaste Maid for the public stage, he faced the problem of turning satiric comedy into popular comedy, or at least of merging the ironic vision of his coterie dramas with the festive spirit of that particular dramatic tradition which a play like Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday epitomizes. His solution was to utilize much of the thematic material he had handled in his earlier works-materialism and avarice, bourgeois pretensions, aristocratic degeneracy, religious hypocrisy, libertinism and prodigality -but also to expand his treatment of human sexuality to lay new stress on the theme of fertility and, hence, make Eros, not Momus, the god of his comic world.1

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