‘Our other Shakespeare’
Middleton’s tragedies on television, 1965–2009
in Screen plays
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The reputation of the Jacobean dramatist Thomas Middleton has undergone an upsurge in recent years, in part thanks to promotion of the author by scholar Gary Taylor as ‘our other Shakespeare’. Middleton’s best-known tragedy, The Changeling (co-written with William Rowley), was adapted by Granada for ITV in 1965, when it was accompanied by a broadcast of Middleton’s other celebrated tragedy, Women Beware Women. Subsequent television adaptations of The Changeling were more predictably made and transmitted by the BBC in 1974 and 1994. However, in 2009 ITV returned to the play with a contemporary adaptation, Compulsion, which offered a version of the play set in multicultural Britain.

The British television production history of The Changeling is thus perhaps the most comprehensive of any early modern tragedy other than those by Shakespeare, and this history provides an invaluable means to compare the televisual treatment of the content and conventions of an early modern tragedy by the BBC and ITV from the mid-1960s to the first decade of the twenty-first century.

This chapter provides detailed analyses of all four versions of The Changeling, together with reference to the 1965 Women Beware Women. Overall, the chapter seeks to examine the ways television has addressed its violent and sexual content in different decades. Further informed by recent feminist scholarship, the chapter seeks to trace the changing attitudes to sexuality, madness and violence encoded by the different productions, during a period of British social history which saw the rise and decline of feminism and significant cultural shifts in accepted codes of sexual behaviour and morality.

Screen plays

Theatre plays on British television

Editors: Amanda Wrigley and John Wyver

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