Women Beware Women

“Women Beware Women: A tragedy by Thomas Middleton (1580-1627). It has not been established when he wrote it (some time before 1622), but the works was published posthumously in 1657. The admonitory title primarily refers to the character Livia (although none of the other characters is particularly savoury). In the main plot Livia distracts Leontio’s mother with a game of chess while the duke seduces Leontio’s wife, Bianca. In the subplot Livia persuades her niece Isabella that she is not related to Uncle Hippolito, Livia’s brother, so that mutual lust may be consummated. The corpse count by the end of the play is high. Apparently T.S. Eliot was alluding to the scene featuring the game of chess in the title of Part II of The Waste Land (1922), ‘A Game of Chess’, although the only reference to chess is in the lines:

And we shall play a game of chess,

Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

Middleton’s political satire, A Game at Chess, which he wrote in 1624, was also admired by Eliot.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

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