In the seventeenth-century Jacobean revenge tragedy The Changeling, Thomas Middleton and William Rowley present two seemingly separate worlds in both location and action. The main plot is characterized by the locale of the castle in Alicante, ruled by Vermandero. This setting is centered on the appetite of Vermandero's daughter, Beatrice-Joanna, against the paternal will. Further, the action of this setting develops through the love triangle between Beatrice, Alsemero, and De Flores that magnifies Beatrice's character. The subplot is distinguished by Doctor Alibius' madhouse within which Alibius becomes increasingly fearful of his wife, Isabella, potentially acting disloyally; the playwrights also present the "mad" characters of Antonio and Franciscus and their actions toward Isabella, of which Alibius grows extremely jealous.
[...] De Flores is thus a symbol of temptation through which Middleton and Rowley convey the lustful desire that rules the play's action and drives the characters of the main plot into incurable madness. This transpires in Beatrice's belief that her superiority to De Flores will protect her because his ugliness is supposedly a barrier that will prevent attraction. As Mulryne explains, see the ugliness of De Flores and understand his obsessive impulses, echoing those of Beatrice. Furthermore, associations begin to gather round the castle and into which the action is about to move” (37-8). [...]
[...] Her character's double name suggests a double-figure consisting of pure Madonna and whore. It is interesting, then, that Beatrice is the name of Dante's guide through paradise in his poem The Divine Comedy, while Joanna may refer to Joanna of Castile, the second daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, who was called “Juana la Loca” or “Joanna the (“Hereditary Insanity in History”). Vermandero's use of in reference to Beatrice, at a moment that she hoped to hide her marriage from Alsemero, foreshadows her desire to go against his will. [...]
[...] Further, in the madhouse scenes of the subplot, there is a striking parallel between De Flores and the subordinate keeper Lollio [Lollio] demands share' from Isabella as a price for keeping his mouth shut about Antonio, just as De Flores does from Beatrice. This is not irony but preparation (‘device prior to irony'); coming in the scene after De Flores commits the murder and before he demands his reward it acts as a proof of Isabella's wisdom and a hint of the future of Beatrice (Empson 50-51). [...]
[...] It seems that Middleton and Rowley are also commenting on surveillance in the time period through a comic portrayal of the police state; for inside the madhouse, scenic effect is that of a figure of authority closely watching every word and action, ready to threaten punishment if certain limits are transgressed” (Bromham and Bruzzi 84). Through the design of these two facets of society as really one and the same, the playwrights further demand a social order that does not repress the lower class' supposed irrationalities, but rather acknowledges humanity's inherent inclination toward sin. [...]
[...] As the images of these fools, seeking access to Isabella and appearing “some as birds, others as beasts [who] act out their fantasies in any shapes/Suiting their present thoughts,” the commentary of the subplot on the main plot continues to unfold ( 3.3 .204-5). Since the playwrights use a comical tone during the madhouse scenes, the subplot comes to be a subtle reflection of the inanity of the main plot. As J.R. Mulryne states . Antonio and Franciscus repeatedly remind us of pretence and hiding as they assume and shed their disguises the incidents and language of the sub-plot colour the mind in such a way as to intensify the experience of irrationality and deceit communicated by the main action. [...]
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