Libido and the Market-Place: The Fools of Paul’s
In the major comedies he wrote for Paul’s Boys, Thomas Middleton chose to make his satiric point through irony and the biter-bit motif. This enabled him to tighten the dramatic structure, connecting multiple episodes in an ironic nexus. The pivotal presenter becomes superfluous in this lateral scheme, and obtrusive moralizing is replaced by the logic of irony. The ironic cross-weave of plots in Middleton’s city comedies destroys the separation of power and morality from the dynamics of social life. At their simplest, the comedies establish the drive for money and sex as the motor of human behaviour at all levels. In a less elementary way, they connect desire and power, markets and morals, civil society, and political structures. Everyday conduct expresses a hidden solidarity of cultural premises. The so-called ‘realism’ and ‘irony’ of Middleton’s early comedies are more effects of this causal cohesion than of a fidelity to what the historian might perceive as the ‘facts’ about Jacobean England.
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