This week I’m re-reading a number of plays as I work out my present chapter. Mainly I’m just reading and letting them sit alongside each other in my head and in various notebooks. Which means I have only half-formed thoughts to write about here. Middleton’s A Mad World, My Masters usefully picks up on a number of topics/problems I’m trying to work through: the way that whores and wives are often interchangeable in Renaissance comedy, the ease with which maids’ reputations can be built or destroyed, the fact that chastity depends so much on performance and rumour, the contradiction that although whore and courtesan were criminal occupations in early modern London both professions were also economically and socially valuable, the sad fact that whore shaming was a wholly unremarkable and acceptable practice in early modern life.
None of the above really says anything about the peculiarities of Middleton’s play. I’m saving those comments for the chapter, I guess. For now I’ll confine myself to noting that it has one of the cleverest courtesan-bawd pairs of Middleton’s comedy. Or anyone else’s, for that matter. They’re going to be fun to write about.
27 March 2013 ~ Hamilton
Middleton, Thomas. A Mad World, My Masters. Ed Standish Henning. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1965.