I have just finished re-reading “The Changeling” by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley. This a Jacobean play which i studied during my English A Level and quite enjoyed.
The blurb on Amazon reads:
“Now regarded as one of the masterpieces of Jacobean drama Middleton and Rowley’s play tells the story of Beatrice Joanna. Betrothed to Alonzo but in love with Alsemero she persuades the disfigured servant De Flores, who is infatuated with her, to murder her prospective husband. Her actions embroil them all in a nightmare of violence and betrayal.”
This play gets a bit twisted, what with Beatrice bribing her father’s ugly servant De Flores to murder Alonzo, and then De Flores demanding that she give him her virginity as payment for the murder, which she does somewhat reluctantly! Then she has to prove to her new husband Alsemero that she is a virgin, panics, and then decides to sneak her own virginal servant into the bridal bed to deceive her new husband but to save her skin at the same time!
The subplot is less dramatic but just as crazy: Alibius, the owner of an asylum for the insane wants to protect his new bride from potential suitors who might steal her away so he locks her up inside the asylum and keeps out of the real world. However, little does he know that 2 suitors have been admitted under the pretense of being insane, and thus try to woo the beautiful bride under his very nose.
The play is actually quite funny in some respects, with the bed-hopping and disguises making the overall play more light-hearted. I studied “The Changeling” during I actually watched this play being performed at the Barbican in London back in 2006 and really enjoyed how it works on stage. I’ve also seen a film version which doesn’t work as well but the setting is a bit more visual and more real.
The characters are interesting, with De Flores being believable as the creepy servant and Beatrice as the beautiful yet scheming young woman. I still can’t believe that Alsemero was so stupid to not realise that he ended up in bed with his wife’s maid instead of his own wife – how blind can a man be!!??
I also can’t believe how well the two men managed to dupe Alibius into thinking they were insane and trying to steal his wife Isabella right where he least expected her to be in danger of being seduced. I love how the would-be seducers get their comeuppance when Isabella beats them at their own game!
This play is based mainly on sex, of course! The sexual innuendo is constant throughout the play! But then, what is the point of having a play with nothing that can be deemed as sexual!?
I give this play 9/10 because it is one of my favourites! Some plays get boring after a while but this one is quite good throughout, although i only gave it 9/10 because the subplot isn’t quite as good as the main plot! Worth a read if you haven’t tried it!