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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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Servants and Masters: The Changeling

Servants and Masters: The Changeling

(p.145) 7 Servants and Masters: The Changeling
Society and Politics in the Plays of Thomas Middleton


Oxford University Press

In recent years, Thomas Middleton’s The Changeling (1622) has come to be seen as either an attack on class and gender rule, or as a warning against marital and political alliance with Spain. It seems that the play may be read as politically radical only at the cost of making it socially conservative. The issues of sex and power coalesce in the sado-masochistic concerns of The Changeling. Sex in The Changeling is political in the fundamental sense of social management. Despite Rowley’s substantial share, the text displays how easily the comic Middletonian themes of sex and money can sour into the tragic politics of desire and power. By sexualizing class relations, it exposes idealized loyalties of late feudalism as functions of political strength. To this purpose, the play reformulates the tropes of chivalry and courtly love, and it is more concerned with estranging their generic register on the stage than with demonized Spain.

Keywords:   Thomas Middleton, The Changeling, Spain, sex, power, sado-masochism, money, politics, desire, class relations

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