DEAN RADER is Professor of English at the University of San Francisco. He is the coauthor (with Jonathan Silverman) of The World is a Text: Writing, Reading, and Thinking about Visual Culture and (with Janice Gould) Speak to Me Words: Essays on Contemporary American Indian Poetry. His book of poems, Works & Days, won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize.
Thomas Middleton, 1580-1627 Middleton wrote in a wide variety of genres and styles, and was a thoroughly professional dramatist. His comedies were generally based on London life but seen through the perspective of Roman comedy, especially those of Plautus. Middleton is a masterful constructor of plots. "A Chaste Maid in Cheapside" (1630) is typical of Middleton's interests. It is biting and satirical in tone: the crassness of the willing cuckold Allwit is almost frightening. Middleton was very preoccupied with sexual themes, especially in his tragedies, "The Changeling" (1622), written with William Rowley, and "Women Beware Women" (1621). The portraits of women in these plays are remarkable. Both Beatrice-Joanna in "The Changeling" and Bianca in "Women Beware Women" move swiftly from innocence to corruption, and Livia in "Women Beware Women" is noteworthy as a feminine Machiavelli and manipulator. In his psychological realism and his powerful vision of evil, Middleton resembles Shakespeare.