The Emotions Of Tragedy

Paul Budra

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 Emotions Of Tragedy

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



The most regularly performed of Thomas Middleton's plays since its revival in 1961 has been The Changeling. The majority of productions, and the ones that received the best reviews, emphasize a romantic relationship between the characters Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores. Literary critics, too, have begun to assume a repressed sexual attraction in Beatrice-Joanna for the radical other of De Flores. Barker and Nicol take exception to this interpretation of the play, finding it questionable on contemporary feminist terms for its erotic treatment of the central scene, in which De Flores demands that Beatrice-Joanna reward his murder of Piracquo with sexual favours, which risks affirming that Middleton and Rowley's heroine actually desires a rape she pleads against in the lines they wrote for her. This article suggests that it is questionable for another reason: this romantic, or at least erotic, reading of the play may be emotionally ahistorical. It arises, at least in part, from an essentialization of the emotional registers of tragedy, a process which resulted from the domination of that dramatic genre by Shakespeare.

Keywords: Thomas Middleton; plays; Changeling; tragedy; Shakespeare

Article.  7876 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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