Thomas Middleton, William Shakespeare, and the Masculine Grotesque

Celia R. Daileader

in The Oxford Handbook of Thomas Middleton

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Thomas Middleton, William Shakespeare, and the Masculine Grotesque

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



This article explores Middleton's gender politics. Frailty or vice by one name or another is omnipresent in Middleton's dramatis personae, and Frailty himself – gendered male – steps onstage in Middleton's The Puritan Widow (1606), a play that post-dates Hamlet (1600). By the same token, in Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy, written the same year as the former and quite obviously reworking Hamlet, almost every male character bears the name of a vice or defect – Lussurioso, Spurio, Ambitioso, Supervacuo, Vindice, Sordido – and the only virtuous characters are female. The gendered allegory of the collective Middletonian personae calls attention to a critical focus that runs through the author's works: simply put, Middleton is more interested in – and more vexed by – specifically masculine frailty or misbehaviour. And that misbehaviour is very frequently sexual and/or sexualized.

Keywords: Thomas Middleton; gender politics; masculine frailty; misbehaviour; dramatis personae

Article.  9015 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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