About Thomas Middleton

Thomas Middleton

Sean Foley is directing our first ever production of Thomas Middleton's A Mad World My Masters, originally written in the 1600s, but now updated to the 1950s.

Who was Thomas Middleton?
Born in 1580, Thomas Middleton was an English Jacobean dramatist and a contemporary of William Shakespeare. He is best known for the tragedies Women Beware Women and The Changeling, but also wrote many successful comedies of city life.

Middleton was a successful and prolific playwright, who knew that sex sells. He filled his plays with bawdy, comical and sometimes nasty sexual encounters, writing about a world driven by money, politics and sex.

His revolutionary English history play, A Game at Chess, was the greatest box office hit of early-modern London. Middleton also wrote religious poetry, satires, historical allegory, prose and less familiar plays, even collaborating with Shakespeare and John Webster.

A Mad World My Masters
This Jacobean stage play and city comedy was first performed around 1605. A satire about the hedonistic lifestyle of London society at the turn of the 17th century, it is considered to be one of Middleton's best city comedies.

A bawdy romp of not-so-subtle sexual jokes; Middleton explores a world in which characters lust after sex and money, and dysfunctional families bicker and scheme.

The play was first performed by the Children of Paul's – a troupe of boy actors popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean London. It was performed regularly at the Salisbury Court Theatre by Queen Henrietta's Men – an important playing company during the Caroline era (1625-1642). The play was revived twice during the Restoration era (1661-2) and was later adapted in the 18th century for other productions.

What is city comedy?
Also known as citizen comedy, city comedy is a special sub-genre of Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline drama. City comedies are satirical plays which depict London as a hotbed of vice and folly, offering a cynical view of 17th century life in the urban metropolis as an amoral and brutal battle of wits.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Etching by Vizetelly & Co. – a 19th century publisher – of a 17th century woodcut of Thomas Middleton, 1887. This image is in the public domain.

A Mad World My Masters

by Thomas Middleton

Swan Theatre
6 June - 25 October 2013

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