The Ecology Of The Passions In <i>A Chaste Maid In Cheapside</i> and <i>The Changeling</i>

Gail Kern Paster

in The Oxford Handbook of Thomas Middleton

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199559886
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 The Ecology Of The Passions In A Chaste Maid In Cheapside and The Changeling

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This article analyses the plays A Chaste Maid in Cheapside and The Changeling, which introduce passions of the embodied self as physically embedded in particular environments. The two plays show that Middleton's drama provides vivid examples of the early modern understanding of emotions as material events – bodily in origin, humoural in nature, and influenced by social and environmental factors inside and outside the embodied self. They offer sharply contrasted environments where emotional demands could hardly be more different. Human beings are depicted as highly volatile, tossed around by their passions like rudderless boats tossed about by winds and waves. In such strongly contrasted environments, it is easy to see emotions as physical and social transactions between individuals rather than as a private experience within the body of the individual subject, and thus to see the production of certain emotions as characteristic of different social worlds. This is what, in another context, the author has called the ecology of the passions – using the word ecology in its contemporary scientific sense as the study of an organism's relations with its surroundings, but retaining a sense of the word's Greek roots in oikos, or home. The passions are at home in the self, but they are also transactions with a social and physical environment.

Keywords: Thomas Middleton; self; passion; drama; plays; emotions

Article.  8360 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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