Exploring The Waste Land
A commentary page linked from The Waste Land, Part II, line 138

Part II
Line 138

Eliot's note to line 138 directs us to compare portions of his poem to Thomas Middleton's play Women Beware Women. In 1927 Eliot wrote his essay "Thomas Middleton." This is what he had to say there about Women Beware Women:

The best tragedy after The Changeling is Women Beware Women. The thesis of the play, as the title indicates, is more arbitrary and less fundamental. The play itself, although less disfigured by ribaldry or clowning, is more tedious. Middleton sinks himself in conventional moralizing of the epoch; so that, if we are impatient, we decide that he gives merely a document of Elizabethan humbug--and then suddenly a personage will blaze out in genuine fire of vituperation. The wickedness of the personages in Women Beware Women is conventional wickedness of the stage of the time; yet slowly the exasperation of Bianca, the wife who married beneath her, beneath the ambitions to which she was entitled, emerges from the negative; slowly the real human passions emerge from the mesh of interest in which they begin. And here again Middleton, in writing what appears on the surface a conventional picture-palace Italian melodrama of the time, has caught permanent human feelings. And in this play Middleton shows his interest--more than any of his contemporaries--in innuendo 'and double meanings; and makes use of that game of chess, which he was to use more openly and directly for satire in that perfect piece of literary political art, A Game at Chesse.


In spite of all the long-winded speeches, in spite of all the conventional Italianate horrors, Bianca remains, like Beatrice in The Changeling, a real woman; as real, indeed, as any woman of Elizabethan tragedy. Bianca is a type of the woman who is purely moved by vanity.

Eliot, T.S., "Thomas Middleton," Selected Essays: 1917-1932, New York, Harcourt, Brace and Company (1932), pp. 144-145 (the essay is dated 1927).

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T 76 - Middleton, Thomas
T 62 - Jacobean tragedy


L 238 - Thomas Middleton [a collection of his plays]
This website is an attempt to collect online copies of Middleton's plays.
L 239 - Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton: A Synopsis
A one page synopsis of the action of the play.
L 265 - Women Beware Women - A Synopsis
Scene by scene synopsis of the play by Thomas Middleton. At the Kit Marlowe, P.I. website.

Exploring The Waste Land
File name: cq138.html
File date: Sunday, September 29, 2002
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