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Wigler, S. (1976). Thomas Middleton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside: The Delicious and the Disgusting. Am. Imago, 33(2):197-215.

(1976). American Imago, 33(2):197-215

Thomas Middleton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside: The Delicious and the Disgusting

Stephen Wigler, Ph.D.

O, delicious!

One may discover her country by her kissing!

'Tis a true saying: ‘There's nothing tastes so sweet

As your Welsh mutton.’ A Chaste Maid in Cheapside,

IV. i. 143-146

“This play is disgustingly filthy,” a member of the audience at the Royal Court Production of A Chaste Maid in Cheap-side, London 1966.

The experience of Thomas Middleton's comedy A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1613) is not altogether pleasant. Most readers and audiences enjoy the play's vitality, but their pleasure is contaminated by dramatic action that is frequently distasteful. This is as it should be; it is my contention that Middleton presents his comedy with the intent of provoking just such conflicting feelings. Furthermore, it seems that the source of this ambivalence is A Chaste Maid's exposure of unconscious conflicts between archaic appetites and powerful inhibitions in its language and in its auditors. I don't think that conventional generic expectations about “comedy” are adequate to the experience Middleton communicates, and I suggest instead the term “comic-grotesque.”

2 In his introduction to his edition and in an earlier article, Parker has emphasized the conflicts in Middleton's plays and has acknowledged that Middleton probably intended to make his audience uncomfortable.

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