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A Chaste Maid in Cheapside

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  264 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Written for the adult players at the open-air Swan theatre in 1613,this master-piece of Jacobean city comedy signals its ironic natureeven in the title: chaste maids, like most other goods and people inLondon's busiest commercial area, are likely to be fake. Money is moreimportant than either happiness or honour; and the most covetedcommodities to be bought with it are sex ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 28th 2002 by Bloomsbury Methuen Drama (first published 1613)
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Robert Stewart
Of all the 17th century comedies I've read—every one of them thoroughly cynical—this one stands alone. Most city comedies (and restoration plays) depict the world as ruled almost solely by lust and greed. With the Chaste Maid, Middleton cuts it very close indeed. To give you an idea, the maid's parents skip her funeral so they can focus on getting their son an advantageous match.
Moll is the maid, or pretty young daughter, of Yellowhammer, a goldsmith. She has two men vying for her hand. One is the wealthy Knight, Sir Walter Whorehound, who already has two mistresses, one of whom has several of his children. Yellowhammer favors Sir Walter for a son-in-law. The second suitor is Tuchwood Junior, whose older brother is a local conman. He is Moll's choice, which forces scheming.
A second plot line involves Tuchwood Senior's con of the wealthy Sir and Lady Kix, a couple who ar
This is a very energetic no holes barred (to use the kind of double entendre which the writer is so keen on) scurrilous romp. 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. Middleton's play abounds in local references archaic words and probably insider jokes and di ...more
Sam Wescott
This was both my first city comedy and my first experience with Middleton. I enjoyed his ribald humor and the way he pushed the sexual ideologies of the early modern period to their most absurd and contradictory levels. While some find the lack of iambic pentameter to be substandard, I found the common city voice to be refreshing and humorous. A wonderful piece of London color complete with archetypal characters and good, dirty humor. Highly recommend!
Frank Stein

First, let me save you some time from reading the footnotes. Every single word in this play is a double entendre for 1. a penis 2. a vagina or 3. a prostitute. For instance a "bow" is also a vagina, a "goose" is a whore, and a "wit" is a penis (which adds a whole new level of course to "rapier wit"). That's about on one page.

Still, the play's remarkably funny, from the willfully cuckolded husband who refuses to besmirch his wife's name by claiming to sleep with her, to the religious Lenten enfo
This city comedy opens with a very promising scene of deception and cuckoldry but quickly sags into a conventional, predictable, and rhythm-less mess. By the time it begins to pick up speed, it's already over. Even the editorial introduction in the English Renaissance anthology I'm reading had very little of illumination or interest to say about this play other than a plot summary and a general kudos for its lighthearted depiction of contemporary social life. I'm not sure why they even included ...more
Incredibly bawdy, even for its time, but unlike in a play like Burning Pestle, the wordplay and sexual punnery here all coheres and builds towards rather than distracts from an interesting narrative thread. Another example of a couple that has to fake-die before they can be married. And also Puritans getting drunk and peeing on stuff.
May 08, 2009 Katie added it
Based my entire senior thesis on this play and maternity/bedtricks. A wonderful play and great for close studying of the commodifying of women and the subversion Middleton performs.
Sep 01, 2013 Rachel added it
Shelves: skool-is-kool
I can definitely see this being funny when it was written, but oh my gosh every other word is alluding to sex in some way.
David Loveland
Interesting, but the ending was a bit of a Much Ado About Nothing/Measure for Measure Rip-off.
Moderately hilarious; abundantly vulgar.
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Thomas Middleton (1580 – 1627) was an English Jacobean playwright and poet. Middleton stands with John Fletcher and Ben Jonson as among the most successful and prolific of playwrights who wrote their best plays during the Jacobean period. He was one of the few Renaissance dramatists to achieve equal success in comedy and tragedy. Also a prolific writer of masques and pageants, he remains one of th ...more
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