Middletonian Stylistics

Jonathan Hope

in The Oxford Handbook of Thomas Middleton

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Middletonian Stylistics

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



This article focuses on Middleton' style. More than Shakespeare or Jonson, Middleton was a writer of works for the printing press – works commissioned by publishers rather than theatres, whose initial reception would be in the visual form of the printed page. While Jonson prepared his plays for the press, and Shakespeare may have thought about publication, this was not their primary mode of disseminating their work, and print as a culture and a technology does not occupy either's mental landscape to the extent it does Middleton's. Even in plays, Middleton's characters display, and Middleton assumes in his audience, an easy familiarity with the language of printing and book-making. Middleton's dramatic prose style is characterized by snappy, symmetrical prose, with effects coming at the phrasal and clausal, rather than lexical, levels. His effects come from structural manipulation: balance, juxtaposition, parallelism, and a cool, almost detached, handling of ideas. Middleton is cautious in his use of inkhorn terms. His characters, even lower-class ones, are certainly capable of savouring the unfamiliar weight of a newly derived Latinate word, but Middleton is more comfortable with words that mix Latinate roots with native affixes.

Keywords: Thomas Middleton; print publishing; writers; prose; words

Article.  8141 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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