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A Mad World, My Masters and Other Plays

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Univ Pr (Sd) (January 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198121695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198121695
  • Shipping Weight: 789 g
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Product Description


"Good selection of plays...thorough, useful notes and glossary."--Simon Morgan-Russell, Bowling Green State University

"Thank you....It is good to know that such Renaissance classics are still in print."--Charles Hallett, Fordham University

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Michael Taylor was Professor of English at the University of New Brunswick, Canada. He is now a freelance writer and editor. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xb734e4e0) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
HASH(0xb7354bac) out of 5 stars Must we keep calling Middleton "our other Shakespeare"? March 23 2016
By HH - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This edition of four of Thomas Middleton's plays should be greeted with enthusiasm by anyone interested in English Renaissance drama and/or the history of British dramatic comedy. By editor Michael Taylor's count, Middleton had a hand in some 50 plays of the late Elizabethan and Jacobean period, many of them collaborations with other dramatists. The present collection offers us three relatively early plays written shortly after the accession of King James I in 1603 for the boy players of St. Paul's Cathedral ("Mad World", "Mich. Term", and "A Trick") along with the c.1611-12 "No Wit", written, one suspects, at least partially in response to the vogue for tragicomedy. The three earlier plays are often grouped together under the rubric of "city comedy," and justifiably so. As Taylor ably illustrates in his well-informed introduction to the volume, all three plays deal in one way or another with the enticements, dangers, and potential benefits to be encountered and/or taken advantage of on the early 17th-century streets of London. In "Mad World", young Follywit lives up (or down) to both halves of his surname as he skillfully bilks his grandfather out of portions of the estate that will eventually be entirely his (if any of it remains), but is simultaneously conned into marrying the old man's mistress. In "A Trick", the (nominally) repentant prodigal Witgood fares better, getting both the desired girl and his usurer uncle's money while palming off his former mistress on his uncle's chief rival. In "Mich. Term", we follow the rise and fall of the merchant Quomodo as he cunningly obtains the estate of the country gull Richard Easy and then loses it back to him by attempting one plot too many (By way of compensation for his temporary losses, Easy enjoys a brief fling with Quodmodo's wife as a result of the merchant's staging of his own death.) While it is easy enough to regard the characters and plot motifs of these plays as all but interchangeable, even cursory summaries such as the ones above should begin to indicate the flexibility and inventiveness with which Middleton handles his materials.

In all important aspects,Taylor's edition does an admirable job of showcasing Middleton's talents. Taylor's introduction provides an excellent overview of the various ways in which critics have approached Middletonian comedy, and notes some of the more puzzling aspects of the plays themselves (e.g. the Dampit and Penitent Brothel subplots of "A Trick" and "Mad World", respectively). Critics are justifiably divided over the relative importance to be assigned to festive, satiric/ironic, and moral elements in Middleton's comedies, and Taylor gives all of these viewpoints their due, while also providing a bibliography to guide further critical reading. His explanatory and textual notes to the play's texts, while somewhat cumbersome to use due to their location at the back of the volume, are both helpful and sensible. Stage directions are intelligently expanded to give the reader a good sense of the play's action(s), which tend toward the complicated on numerous occasions. All in all, the general reader should be more than content with the Oxford volume as a ready, accessible reference.
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8ddd138) out of 5 stars London "City Comedies" by a Renaissance Master Sept. 4 2005
By Q - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a collection of Middleton's "city comedies" that take as their subject matter life in Renaissance London. They were written in the early 17th century. Middleton wrote some great tragedies, and he deserves his reputation as a major playwright of the time, perhaps unjustly overshadowed by Shakespeare's looming presence. The comparison, however, is unavoidable. The plays in this collection are not among Middleton's best works, which are undoubtedly the tragedies. The "city comedies" here are the Renaissance equivalent of a modern soap opera or situation comedy, and just as ephemeral. They are, however, of substantial interest to social and cultural historians, as well as scholars of Renaissance drama. They are all about cuckold husbands, greedy tradesmen, adulterous wives, foolish aristocrats, and grasping prostitutes. The character names say it all: Follywit, Harebrain, Brothel, Dustbox, Falselight, Pecunious Lucre, Moneylove, and Goldenfleece, to give just a sampling. The plots are generally convoluted and contrived. The language is often hard to decipher, not because of its rich complexity, as with Shakespeare, but because of the obscure vocabulary, syntax, and sloppy 17th century editing. Compounding the difficulty of the text is that the explanatory notes are all in the back of the book. Now, modern Shakespeare editions always use footnotes, not endnotes, for obvious reasons, so what makes the Oxford editors think they can use endnotes? It's very distracting and awkward to have to turn to the back of the book 5 or 10 times for each page of reading. Yes, every page has 5 to 10 endnotes! There is also a glossary in back, so if you have a question, and there is no endnote, you have to look up the word in the glossary. All this explanatory material should be put on the same page as the playtext. This is a major editing blunder, and there is no excuse for it. Compare the Norton edition of RENAISSANCE DRAMA, where they use footnotes. On the positive side, the Oxford English Drama series does make these plays more widely available. Although I can't imagine that anyone will read them apart from historians, literary scholars, and their students.