Plot[ edit ] The play presents multiple plots centered on the marriage of Moll Yellowhammer, the titular maid, who is daughter to a wealthy Cheapside goldsmith , and, in particular, her intended husband, Sir Walter Whorehound. Tim, a fatuous scholar, returns to London from Cambridge University with his Latin tutor. Sir Walter is also having an affair with the wife of Allwit, a knowing cuckold , his name an inversion of "wittol," who lives happily on the money Sir Walter gives his wife. He and his wife must separate to avoid another pregnancy, which they cannot afford. His salvation comes from the Kixes, an aging couple who have not been able to conceive.
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Shelves: renaissance-drama , i-own-it In my first review I said that I would have to read the play again and I have, so now follows a second review and my original review at the end. I have increased my rating from three to four stars on the second reading! The play is a slapdash story of cuckolding, pimping, whoring, bastardising, eloping, scheming, prostituting and brothel keeping. My edition is the The New Mermaids edition edited by Alan Brissenden, who seems to be offended if not shocked by the liberties which Middleton takes and occasionally is too innocent or too prudish to draw the extreme but obvious interpretation.
Sir Walter: A wiser man would. Tim: He says true, father, a wise man for love will seek every hole: my tutor knows it. Why apparently? After all, vice is appropriately condemned in asides and warnings and language.
True, yet there is no suggestion in this play that crime or vice does not pay. It is vice which preoccupies Middleton here, not crime, itself slightly suggestive, since a condemnation of vice is usually undertaken by linking vice with crime None of the characters is punished for vice, unless it be Sir Walter Whorehound, and his fate is instructive.
He is the only character to repent of his immoral behaviour. He is a bachelor who regularly enjoys the favours and hospitality of Mrs. Allwit, whereby he pays for the upkeep of the Allwit family in return for open house as Middleton himself might have termed it at the Allwits and farming out for being permitted to leave his seven bastards with the Allwit family.
Allwit is a contended cuckold, being kept in wine and comfort by Sir Walter in return for pimping his wife to Sir Walter on a permanent basis. Is Middelton condemning vice or laughing at those who condemn it? I find it hard to answer this question. The Changeling, his best known and probably most accomplished play, clearly portrays vice in a very dark way indeed and links it to crime.
Such is the traditional religious Christian perspective, but always with Middleton the reader will be, I think, tempted to say the writer is very indulgent in the depiction of what is supposed to be condemned, suspiciously indulgent. The entire Middleton corpus so far as I know it, is very tabloid, by which I mean it condemns vice but spends an inordinate amount of energy and talent in depicting what it condemns.
Vice is entertainment and a source of income, not onyl to the characters in the story, but to the story teller. If we reduce the impact of vice in the plays there is nothing left. Vice is not the vehicle of a dramatic intention, as in Shakespeare, it is the drama. The obsession and the puns may be venereous for some people, and if so, are they intentionally so? That is for the reader to judge.
A Chaste Maid in Cheapside is hugely entertaining and I suspect hugely cynical. Uxor non est meretrix. The play ends with a double wedding feast. Whether the chaste couples ahem live happily ever after, is for us to decide. That was my second review which I wrote having forgotten that I had reviewed the play already.
It most probably works much more effectively on the stage than read, like all good comedies. I have the New Mermaids Edition edited by Alan Brissenden and the annotation is totally inadequate for a modern readership. Some of the words and jokes are explained but not nearly enough. The plot seemed to me to be pretty muddled too; I shall have to read it a second time to get everyone sorted out. Although puritans are made fun of in the play, the moral thrust of the play there I go again is a puritanical denunciation of the greed and cupidity of the world.
A Chaste Maid in Cheapside