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A New Way to Pay Old Debts


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A: Philip Massinger Pf:c.1625, London Pb: 1633 G: Com. in 5 acts; blank verse and some prose S: Nottinghamshire, 1621 C: 15m, 5f, extrasFrank Wellborn is penniless through loose living and because his miserly uncle Sir Giles Overreach has cheated him out of his estates. His best friend Tom Allworth serves a noble soldier Lord Lovell, and is in love with Margaret, the young daughter of Sir Giles. Tom's mother Lady Allworth, a widow, agrees to pretend that she is being courted by Wellborn. When news of this gets back to Sir Giles, the old man hopes to get his hands on Widow Allworth's supposed wealth and encourages his nephew in his courtship, even making him a gift of £1,000. Meanwhile, Sir Giles hopes to marry Margaret to Lord Lovell, who is however interested only in promoting young Allworth's interests. By insisting on Margaret's getting married, Sir Giles mistakenly arranges for the secret wedding of his daughter to Tom Allworth. Lord Lovell is to marry Widow Allworth, and the documents proving his ownership of Wellborn's estates have disintegrated. All this drives Sir Giles mad, and he is taken off to Bedlam. Wellborn seeks a commission with Lord Lovell to fight for king and country.

A: Philip Massinger Pf:c.1625, London Pb: 1633 G: Com. in 5 acts; blank verse and some prose S: Nottinghamshire, 1621 C: 15m, 5f, extras

Based in part on Middleton's A Trick to Catch the Old One and in part on a historical Sir Giles who fled abroad in 1621 to avoid a trial for extortion, Massinger's play is a much more moral piece than Middleton's. The pretended object of the young debtor's wooing is here a virtuous widow not a courtesan, and it is much clearer here that Sir Giles deserves the harsh outcome that he endures. Massinger's play was hugely popular, being performed at least as often as Shakespeare's comedies, and attracting Garrick, Kemble, both Keans, Henry Irving, and others to the larger-than-life role of Sir Giles Overreach.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Philip Massinger (1583—1640) playwright


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