Thomas Middleton



The Works of Thomas Middleton, ed. A.H. Bullen, 8 vols (London, 1885-6; reprinted New York, [1960s]).

Oxford Companion

Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works, general editors Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino (Oxford, 2007).

Oxford Middleton

Thomas Middleton, The Collected Works, general editors Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino (Oxford, 2007).


An undoubted example of Middleton's autograph is the signature he wrote in the subscription register on matriculating at The Queen's College, Oxford, 7 April 1598 (*MiT 35). Five of the six extant manuscripts of A Game at Chess, written twenty-six years later (MiT 14-18), contain handwriting consistent with this signature and can be accepted as in part in Middleton's hand, one of the them entirely autograph (*MiT 14).

The survival of so many manscripts of A Game at Chess, all earlier than the first edition, can be explained by the special topical interest the play had in 1624 and by the ban imposed upon it by the Government. There survive, besides, important scribal copies of The Mayor of Queenborough (MiT 22-3), of The Witch (MiT 28), and of one of the various entertainments Middleton wrote for the Lord Mayor of London (MiT 20). Printed exempla of three other plays have the text of missing leaves supplied in manuscript (MiT 6, MiT 12, MiT 13). One of these (MiT 6) is of particular interest since the secretary hand can be identified with that of a professional scribe associated with the theatre, also responsible for similar repaired volumes (ChG 12.5 and HyT 5) as well as a verse anthology (British Library, Add. MS 33998) which was later associated with the lawyer Chaloner Chute or his family.

The entries include early manuscript copies of various songs in his plays and of three poems ascribed to him, as well as some miscellaneous extracts from the plays. Some music for the plays is also found in manuscripts, though not included in the entries below (some appears in the Oxford Middleton). Music for the first dance by the Witches in The Witch is in British Library (Add. MS 10444, ff. 21, 74v; British Library, Add. MS 17786-9, f. 5v; British Library, Add. MS 38539, f. 4) and at Trinity College, Dublin (MS 408). Music for the second dance of the Witches is in the British Library (Add. MS 10444, ff. 21v, 75) and at Christ Church, Oxford (MS Mus. 92, f. 15r-v). This music is edited and discussed by John P. Cutts in ‘Jacobean Masque and Stage Music’, M&L, 35 (1954), 185-200, and in Musique de la troupe de Shakespeare (1959), pp. 14-16, 125-6.

Some printed exempla of Two New Playes [i.e. More Dissemblers besides Women and Women Beware Women] (London, 1657) are to be found with annotations by early owners. These annotations, which seem to be of little textual or theatrical interest apart from one note in an exemplum at Yale which explains how Livia kills Isabella in the second of the two plays, are discussed in J.R. Mulryne, ‘Annotations in some Copies of Two New Playes by Thomas Middleton, 1657’, The Library, 5th Ser. 30 (1975), 217-21.

As with other dramatists of the period, most notably Beamont and Fletcher, the canon of Middleton's works has always been a subject of scholarly debate, general assessments including Bentley, IV, 855-911, and David J. Lake, The Canon of Thomas Middleton's Plays (Cambridge, 1975). For present purposes the canon is almost entirely based on the Oxford Middleton (2007), which, with the Oxford Companion (2007), includes lengthy discussions of the texts, including manuscripts.

Peter Beal