“The Irony and Puns in the Changeling Reveal the Characters actions are prompted by an Individual Sexual Drive though they are often unconscious of the fact .”- How far do you agree with this Review?
Throughout ‘The Changeling’ Middleton and Rowley create characters that are driven by calculated sexual desire. Having no outlet for their passion causes our protagonists to unconsciously shift their frustration in the direction which may, to be euphemistic, provide relief. There is a duplicity to much of the dialogue and the exchanges which take place within the play and many literal meanings have bawdy undertones conveying the subconscious preoccupations of the central characters.
One area where individual sexual drive is evident is in the sphere of relationships where love and sexuality are often conflated. Alsemero speaks of love ” as firm as love e’er built upon”, the biological undertones of this reflect his attitude to Beatrice, as his love is founded upon a mere glimpse of her in the temple . Alsemero says “I love her beauties to the holy purpose” and this again is an affirmation of the physicality of his attraction to Beatrice. Beatrice’s heightened awareness of this fact and the power of physical attraction is exemplified by her statement that eyes are “rash sometimes, and tell us wonders Of common things, which when our judgments find, They can then check the eyes, and call them blind”. The fact that she speaks in verse gives further emphasis to the idea of the deceptiveness of looks and that blindness lies in seeing without thinking. When Beatrice later says of Alsemero “Methinks I love now with the eyes of judgement” the implication is that she herself does not understand the nature of love. For her it is a concept which she rationalises and relates to seeing with the eyes, rather than feeling with the heart. De Flores is another example of a character who initially portrays himself as lovesick for Beatrice saying “I know she hates me, yet cannot choose but love her”.
It is interesting that De Flores who is one of ‘The Changeling’s’ most astute and insightful characters chooses to call what is clearly sexual infatuation on his part, ‘love’. His real intent is revealed with the words “Though I get nothing else, I’ll have my will”, which follow the previous proclamation of ardour. The “will” he speaks of possessing is clearly of a sexual nature and thereby it’s evident that gives precedence to his desire and not love, but simply the satisfaction of his longing. But unlike the other characters it seems that De Flores simply equates love with the lasciviousness and is not a victim of a powerful unconscious sexual drive. In one of the first scenes with De Flores and before love is even mentioned on his part he reveals that his subsequent actions are motivated by the pursuit of Beatrice, saying “Some twenty times a day, nay, not so little, Do I force errands, frame ways and excuses To come into her sight”. In his manipulation of Beatrice he bluntly makes his expectations clear saying “Is anything valued too precious for my recompense?” and “Justice invites your blood to understand me”. The reference to blood is implicitly sexual, but at the same time seems to equate justice with sacrifice on the part of Isabella. At the same time De Flores seems to be saying that the murder has made them equals and her noble blood no longer places her above him. In his candid confessions of lust De Flores also serves to empahsise the sexual hypocrisy of Beatrice and Alsemero and their outward pursuit of romantic ideals, which is fundamentally driven by the physical.
Among the characters Beatrice seems to be the most duplicitous in her inability to evaluate her motives and control her urges, whilst believing herself to be highly virtuous. She condemns the sexual appetite in other women such as Diaphanta, whilst refusing to recognise anything of the sort in herself, acknowledging only a “giddy turning” on meeting Alsemero, which is representative of her strong sexual desire for him. In the context of the time in which the play was written there was heightened awareness amongst the educated of the Aristotelian concept of the harmony of outward beauty and inner morality, which is challenged by the reader’s changing perception of Beatrice Joanna throughout the play. De Flore’s cynicism of Beatrice who is “a woman dipp’d in blood and talk[s] of modesty” again shows her refusal to digress from the accepted belief that physical appearance mirrors one’s morality and consequent incapability to see both the sexual and flawed aspects of herself.
A character within the play who is completely unmotivated by subconscious desire seems to be Isabella whose judicious mind prevents her entrapment by Lollio and Antonio. Isabella also seems to act as a foil to the general portrait of women painted in the play. She chides Antonio with the words “you are a fine fool indeed”, revealing her knowledge of the pretence, whilst seemingly feigning naivety, before coolly telling him that “All this while you have but played the fool” and seeming disinterested in his advances, just as with Lollio to whom she says “Sirrah, no more!”. Her observation that a woman “need not gad abroad to seek her sin” is a reassertion of the fact that whilst she is aware of the potential and opportunity open to her to transgress she has no intention of doing so, due to her recognition of her own personal dignity and self-worth.
Within “The Changeling” there are multiple layers of sexual self-awareness within the characters with instances of both conscious and unconscious passion driving the events. However, it is only the shrewder and more discerning of the characters such as De Flores, Lollio and Isabella who are able to identify their feelings and thereby fathom both their own actions and the events unfurling around them. Parallel to this, the likes of Beatrice are swept up by their subconscious urges and driven into precarious and threatening situations, stemming from their repression of self-discovery.