Surmounting over three centuries of neglect, Middleton is more our contemporary today than any other Jacobean playwright. This book studies society and politics in Middleton’s plays in an attempt to historicize the texts as a condition for understanding the source of their undiminished vitality. It shares with New Historicism the desire for basing interpretation on a dialogical understanding of history, for reading changing event into the text’s changeless structure. It focuses on the context and career of a playwright whose response to the events, images, and professional demands of his time generated disturbing insights into the structures of social and political authority. Middleton’s ambivalent relation to political authority was mistaken in the past for cynical opportunism; his ability to bring into simultaneous view the shifts of history and art, for bland dispassion. It is easier for our times to recognize in these traits a great precursor of politically self-conscious theatre.
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