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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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Strangers and Natives: Women Beware Women

Strangers and Natives: Women Beware Women

(p.127) 6 Strangers and Natives: Women Beware Women
Society and Politics in the Plays of Thomas Middleton


Oxford University Press

Women Beware Women displays Thomas Middleton’s maturest understanding of the relation of power to desire, and of political culture to civil society. The change of soil within the play from court to city, from Italianate melodrama to bourgeois tragedy, from satire to revenge play, may itself be seen to register a critique of political and sexual authority. Alteration of soil is of relevance in a more literal sense. The experience of distant cultures produced in early modern England a profound disquiet in the spheres Greenblatt has called sex, sustenance, and salvation, involving respectively the family, the State, and the Church. In the strange, the period sensed the hidden violence of the familiar; in the familiar, the transparent savagery of the strange. Above all, alien structures of political and gender authority forced on the period’s consciousness the historical contingency of native social formations.

Keywords:   Thomas Middleton, Women Beware Women, power, desire, political culture, civil society, soil, sex, sustenance, salvation

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