Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Gale H. Carrithers, Jr
This dissertation focuses on the repentance and conversion scenes in Thomas Middleton's city comedies. It asserts the importance of recognizing Middleton's Calvinism for reading the plays' religious elements. Chapter one critiques both the common omission of the religious language from criticism of the comedies and the emphasis on the tragedies and Puritan politics in recent studies. The pamphlet The Two Gates of Salvation is used to theorize Middleton's method of investigating Calvinist theology in the comedies. Chapter two examines the conversion of Penitent Brothel in A Mad World, My Masters, and the repentances of Francisco in The Widow and Sir Walter Whorehound in A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. These responses to grace help to define genre in Middleton's canon; comedies show significant repentances, tragedies show rejections of grace. Variants in the first quarto show that Penitent's name changes from Brothel to Once-Ill when he converts. Comparisons of his conversion are made to Francisco's repentance to show Middleton's pattern of repentance. Sir Walter's repentance is then shown to prevent a tragic ending to A Chaste Maid. Chapter three observes the frequent marriages of prostitutes in the comedies. Focusing on A Trick to Catch the Old One, it proposes a prostitute's marriage is a paradigm for grace, paralleled in the life of the prophet Hosea. The chapter also suggests that the Courtesan is a moral example to Witgood. Chapter four reads the satires Microcynicon and Father Hubbard's Tales, and the plays Michaelmas Term and The Roaring Girl to show how Middleton applies grace to homosexuality. Middleton opposes sodomy, but he engages the subject of homosexuality without marginalizing the sodomite from his own social millieu. According to opponents of the theatre, Middleton himself could have been regarded as guilty of sodomy by association with the theatre. Thus, he treats the problem of homosexuality as if he were implicated in it, using a sodomitical narrative voice in Microcynicon, using a feminized persona to redeem the sodomite in Michaelmas Term, and redeeming the sodomite stage in The Roaring Girl.
Heller, Herbert Jack, "Penitent Brothellers: Grace, Sexuality, and Genre in Thomas Middleton's City Comedies." (1997). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 6492.