Dark, powerful, and unsettling, Middleton and Rowley's 'The Changeling' is a tale of jealousy, unrequited affections and lust; and thus provides a deeply troubling, and fascinating portrayal of love. The play has two plots, largely separate from one another - the first chronicles the love of Beatrice for Alesmero, a feeling which clashes with her supposed duty to marry Alonzo de Piracquo; and she manipulates a servant, De Flores, who possess a great, unrequited love for Beatrice, to put Alsemero out of the picture. The other plot poses similarly worrying questions about the darker side of love, with the esteemed doctor, Alibius, locking up his young and beautiful wife Isabella, and trying to test her faithfulness by plying her with his contacts, who appear in disguise. Both of these plots have a good narrative thread, and are engaging. The tale of De Flores is one of the best evocations of obsessive love of Renaissance literature, and his asides to himself, provide perhaps his best and most revealing dialogue. Elsewhere, the tale of Alibius and Isabella is enjoyable and raises some interesting questions, but her meetings with Albius' friends disguised as a fool and a madman, respectively, do begin to drag after a while.
Despite the enjoyable and gripping nature of 'The Changeling', there are a few flaws in the play. The faked conversations between Lollio and Alibius contacts, to try and convince Isabella of their legitimacy, take up far too much of the play, and begin to distract from the action of that plot. Similarly, Beatrice and Diaphanta's own sub-plot takes away a bit too much focus from the main action. Still, these are relatively minor complaints of a play which is dramatic, darkly vibrant, and which brings forth some of the most powerful characters of the period's literature, in Beatrice and De Flores. For those who like their drama brooding, bloody and complex, 'The Changeling' will provide a very worthwhile read.