Places: The Changeling

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1653

First produced: 1622

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragedy

Time of work: Early seventeenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Alicante

*Alicante. Changeling, TheMediterranean port city near Valencia in eastern Spain in which the play is set. The play opens outdoors, near a church by the port, with the Valencian nobleman Alsemero delaying his departure for Malta and getting drawn into Beatrice-Joanna’s adulterous and murderous plots. The rest of the play is wholly restricted to interiors, as if to suggest women’s domestic confinement.


*Valencia. Capital city of the eastern region of Spain from which Alsemero comes. Valencia is about one hundred miles north of Alicante–a distance great enough to make Alsemero a “stranger” to Beatrice-Joanna’s father, Vermandero, who hesitates to give him a tour of his castle.

Vermandero’s castle

Vermandero’s castle. Alicante headquarters of Governor Vermandero and the setting for all the scenes in the play following its opening. The castle citadel into which Beatrice-Joanna invites her lover Alsemero represents Beatrice-Joanna herself, with the underground vault in which De Flores murders her fiancé reflecting her sinful depths.

Dr. Alibius’s house

Dr. Alibius’s house. Home of Alibius, a jealous old doctor who keeps his lovely young wife, Isabella, confined at home with his mad patients. The madness and folly observed in Alibius’s institution form a grotesque reflection of the madness and folly of the outside world. The determination of Isabella to resist “lunatic” adulterous propositions counterpoints Beatrice-Joanna’s moral defeat at the castle. The nominally Spanish madhouse actually evokes England’s Bethlehem Hospital, an asylum in Bishopsgate, London–especially in a line referring to “the chimes of Bedlam [Bethlehem].” Thus, virtue triumphs in a more English setting.


Hell. Ultimate destination to which Beatrice-Joanna and De Flores are doomed, evoked twice by reference to a country game called “barley-brake,” in which couples hold hands and are forbidden to separate, while trying to catch others who run past them as their replacements in the central space called “hell.”

BibliographyBradbrook, M. C. Themes and Conventions of Elizabethan Tragedy. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Analysis of the drama of the period, including its staging and conventions of plot and character. Chapter on Middleton finds him untypical in his simplicity of language, but subtlety of implication.Brittin, Norman A. Thomas Middleton. New York: Twayne, 1972. A good basic guide to Middleton’s drama. It claims that he is the most important writer of the Jacobean comedy of manners. Sensitive analysis of The Changeling and a useful summary of critical assessments.Farr, Dorothy M. Thomas Middleton and the Drama of Realism. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. Traces Middleton’s development, initiated with the aid of Rowley in The Changeling, toward a new form of tragic drama, which, Farr claims, is close to the modern theater.Jump, J. D. “Middleton’s Tragic Comedies.” In The Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol 2. New York: Penguin Books, 1964. Focus is the two tragedies, Women Beware Women and The Changeling, with emphasis on the quality of the verse and the realism of the drama.Mulryne, J. R. Writers and Their Work: Thomas Middleton. New York: Longman, 1979. Surveys the body of Middleton’s work, including The Changeling. Useful bibliography.
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