Saturday, September 17, 2011

No Wit/Help Like a Woman's

This play, given the high usage of quotes from the 1611 almanac, was probably written in 1611. However, it wasn't entered into the Stationer's Register until 1653 or published until 1657. And, after a revival in Dublin in 1638, it wasn't played again until 1985 by the Wayward Players.

This is all probably because it sucks.

Middleton borrowed the plot from Della Porta's play "La Sorella" (The Sister), and the plot was subsequently borrowed several times from Middleton in the late 17th and 18th century (once by Aphra Behn). The plot itself could be "cute," I guess. But the comic resolutions are too perfect, and the characters seem so sharp and mannered that it feels like a Restoration play; disguises, babies switched at birth, hints of incest and homosexuality--it could be so good, but it's not. This play is full of stereotypes enacting a situation instead of personalities engaged in life.

It does focus on women, as evident in the title. The titular "Wit" and "Help" come from the two main characters, Mistress Low-water and Lady Goldenfleece, both of whom end up entangled together in complicated financial and sexual/romantic affairs. The idea of doubleness, too, holds the play together; almost every character has his or her counterpart: Jane and Grace, Philip and Sandfield, the Twilights and the Sunsets, Weatherwise and Sir Gilbert Lambstone, etc. This doubleness creates a plot in which one person may stand in for another and thus resolve what seem like impending tragedies--incest committed, love denied, homosexual desire. But the final solution is financial, not sexual. Everyone goes home with the right bed-partner and enough money in their pockets.


Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

julieb said...

thanks so much!
Im glad you like it!