INTRODUCTION. Most scholars believe that Thomas Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside was first performed sometime between and , although. Complete summary of Thomas Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of A Chaste Maid in Cheapside. Thomas Middleton’s early 17th-century city comedy is set very particularly during Lent, a time when eating and trading in meat was forbidden.

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While Sir Oliver Kix and his wife—relatives of Sir Walter—watch from afar, Touchwood Junior comes to ask for his older brother’s help in buying a marriage license for his desired marriage to Moll. Allwit prefers to prostitute his wife to Sir Walter than work, and in one scene a young woman abandons her baby as if it were a leg of mutton.

The play was originally staged by the Lady Elizabeth’s Men. A very limited excerpt from the play, titled A Posy for the Ring for the occasion, was acted at Earls Court on 16 September In addition to double entendres, which are spoken out loud in dialogue with another character, Middleton also makes use of asides—comments directed at the audience, which the other characters cannot hear. While they can’t live up to them, the fact that they can still speak of better things provides the proof that their human flame is still flickering.

Cheapsode asks what has become cheapsire Sir Walter, Mr. A maid breaks up their fight, saying that Touchwood Senior has chasye fertility water that he drinks, which could make Lady Kix pregnant.

The play is intricately plotted and consists of several stories about many families which makd ultimately resolved at the same time. In the face of the worldly pressures which sympathetic characters like Sir Oliver, Lady Kix, Touchwood Senior, Touchwood Junior, and Moll face—poverty, society, biology—Middleton’s realistic about the fact that it’s almost impossible to live a life of absolutes and survive.


This is one of the more tame passages in the play. Allwit is also cheapzide of Sir Walter, cautious that his benefactor may someday try to marry and no longer need Allwit’s wife.

A Chaste Maid in Cheapside |

In A Chaste Maid in Cheapsideas in many of his other plays, Middleton’s double entendres have sexual connotations. What begins as a display of bourgeois pseudopoliteness becomes an image of comic animality. In return, Sir Walter covers all of the Allwits’ living expenses. Through all the complicated wordplay and the sometimes bewildering tangle of revelations and protestations, Middleton inexorably explores the difference between what truly is and what can be seen, and the human need for both truth and artifice.

A Chaste Maid in Cheapside

When Moll uses this incident to fake her own death, Moll’s parents mourn her loss but do not attend the funeral because they are too busy trying to marry their son Tim to the Welsh Gentlewoman before Sir Walter Whorehound finds out that his intended bride is dead.

Touchwood Senior is an extremely fertile man who has more children than he can support and as a result, he and his wife plan to live apart before they have any more children. In the harmony that is reached between need and abundance, the force of fertility is finally liberated. The Kixes are related to Sir Walter in an unspecified way, but the play does indicate that if the Kixes do not bear an heir, they will lose their fortune to Sir Walter.

In fact, when it comes time to choose gossips or witnesses at the baby girl’s christening, Sir Walter says that he will serve as one himself to prevent the suspicion that Sir Walter is the father.

He is not willing to give up on them, either. Touchwood Junior tells his older brother about his plan to steal Moll away from Yellowhammer. This is important because xhaste they have a child, Sir Walter a relation of theirs will not inherit their fortune, on which he has confidently depended, going so far as to live beyond his means.


In fact, one marriage in particular, the intended marriage of Sir Walter to Moll Yellowhammer, creates the conflict in the play. To avoid sinking completely into depravity, Middleton’s characters need those lovely speeches. Throughout the play, character after character makes beautiful written and morally sound speeches on the way life ought to be—then goes on to belie this, sometimes with their very next act. A Study of Some of the Representative Plays, “We often meet greedy tricksters and false brides in Jacobean drama, but few so cleverly placed in relation to one another as these.

A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, by Thomas Middleton

Dahanna is hoping that if Allwit can stop the marriage and Sir Walter dies childless, Dahanna may gain the inheritance from his distant relation, Sir Kix. In his erotic comedy Mandragola, Macchiavelli uses a fertility potion as a central device for his comic intrigue. Middleton wrote his plays during the late-Elizabethan period and was a contemporary of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonsontwo playwrights with whom he is often compared.

Allwit sides with her husband. Next, they try to run away together across the river, but Maudlin Yellowhammer jumps in the river, catches Moll, and drags her out.

All of the guests retire to cheapxide where they will celebrate cheapsidd new marriages. She says that it is Touchwood’s bastard child and she threatens to announce this fact. Although Yellowhammer tells Allwit that he will not let Sir Walter marry his daughter, secretly, he says he will, since Yellowhammer himself has also kept mistresses. Meanwhile, Touchwood Junior has picked up the ring that he had Yellowhammer make and he and Moll make plans to steal away and be secretly married.

Tim comes into the room, sees all of the married women and leaves.