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A Trick to Catch the Old One


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A: Thomas Middleton Pf:c.1604–6, London Pb: 1608 G: Com. in 5 acts; prose and blank verse S: Leicestershire and London, early 17th c. C: 29m, 3f, extrasThrough riotous living, Theodorus Witgood has lost all his money, some of it to his miserly old uncle Pecunius Lucre. Witgood hatches a plan to bring his Courtesan to London, pretending that she is a rich widow Jane Medler. He is convinced that his uncle, smelling money, will help him win his ‘widow's’ hand, and indeed Lucre offers his support. When news of Jane Medler's arrival spreads, she becomes a sought-after prize, wooed even by Lucre's business rival Walkadine Hoard. Witgood advises Widow Medler to marry Hoard, who thinks that her protestations of poverty are made to hide her wealth. They marry secretly, but Lucre, imagining he can still win Widow Medler for his nephew, restores all Witgood's money to him. Meanwhile Witgood serves a writ on the new Mistress Hoard, claiming breach of promise. Hoard agrees to pay Witgood's debts, if he will drop all claims on his new wife's wealth. Financially buoyant once more, Witgood is now free to marry his true love Mistress Joyce. Witgood and the Courtesan/Widow finally confess to their plot, which Hoard accepts with good grace, and all retire to celebrate the double wedding.

A: Thomas Middleton Pf:c.1604–6, London Pb: 1608 G: Com. in 5 acts; prose and blank verse S: Leicestershire and London, early 17th c. C: 29m, 3f, extras

T. S. Eliot described Middleton as the greatest realist in Jacobean comedy, and it is certainly the case that his settings have greater authenticity than those of Ben Jonson. Moreover, while still delighting in the cunning stratagems of Jonsonian tricksters, we can see that a greater social dimension and awareness of class are replacing Jonson's focus on humours, thus forming a bridge between Elizabethan and Restoration comedy.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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