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Society and Politics in the Plays of Thomas
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Swapan Chakravorty

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198182665

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182665.001.0001

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Libido and the Market-Place: The Fools of Paul’s

Libido and the Market-Place: The Fools of Paul’s

(p.43) 2 Libido and the Market-Place: The Fools of Paul’s
Society and Politics in the Plays of Thomas Middleton


Oxford University Press

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.

Keywords:   Thomas Middleton, fools, sex, money, irony, comedies, civil society, power, morality, markets

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