The Changeling
by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley

Thomas Middleton and William Rowley - The Changeling

BBC Third Programme

Broadcast: Wednesday 6th April 1960

"The Changeling" takes its title from the fact that several characters go through changes that make them unrecognisable from what they formerly were or appeared to be such is the power of love and lust.

A young man falls in love with a girl who is betrothed to someone else. She contrives to have her first lover murdered by her father's servant, whom she despises. Hate turns to love, or just passion, and she finally transfers her affections from her second lover to her first's murderer. Such skulduggery will out, and so it does with her, and her murdering lover's, death. Revenge is wreaked on all who deserve it, and we are the wiser for watching the cathartic experience, though this is bought at the price of a high body-count, four in all.

But like all Jacobean tragedies there is a deeper significance to this narrative. "The Changeling" is about being possessed by love. Love draws Alsemero to Beatrice-Joanna. Love draws De Flores to do murder for Beatrice-Joanna, who in turn finally finds her hatred for him turned to love. Corrupt love is played here, and mirrored in the sub-plot where madmen are possessed in bedlam. But in the madhouse there is sometimes less madness than in real life as Antonio's 'change' demonstrates. In Bedlam a celebratory play is being prepared, whose dramatic intention is remarkably similar to the rude mechanicals' play in Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream". Each world reveals the other.

"The Changeling", by English dramatists Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, was first performed at London's Phoenix Theatre in 1622, during the period known as the Jacobean age. "The Changeling" is considered to be Middleton's finest tragedy. It was common at the time for dramatists to collaborate, and Middleton and Rowley collaborated on five plays over a period of five years. For "The Changeling", scholars believe that Rowley wrote the first and last scenes and the subplot, while Middleton was responsible for the main plot and the characterisation of the major characters.

With June Tobin [Beatrice-Joanna, Daughter to Vermandero], Michael Gough [De Flores, Servant to Vermandero], Desmond Carrington [Alsemero, a Nobleman, afterwards married to Beatrice], Freda Dowie [Diaphanta, Beatrice's Waiting Woman], Norman Shelley [Vermandero, Father to Beatrice], John Stone [Jasperino, Alsemero's Friend], Philip Morant [Tomaso de Piracquo, a Noble Lord], and Nigel Anthony [Alonzo de Piracquo, Tomaso's Brother, Suitor to Beatrice].

The principle source of "The Changeling" was John Reynold's "The Triumph of God's Revenge Against Murder", published in 1621, and sections of this book were read before each of the five acts by David Byrd.

Music composed by Christopher Whelen and played by a section of the New Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer. With William Davies (organ).

Edited for radio and produced by Raymond Raikes in London

This production was originally recorded for a series in the Third Programme called British Drama 1600-1642.

90 min.


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