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Thomas Middleton

His colleague and collaborator

The following is an imagined account from the life of Thomas Middleton, a prolific English dramatist, who was inspired by William Shakespeare and collaborated with him on Timon of Athens, among others. The versions of Macbeth and Measure for Measure included in the 1623 First Folio are also Middleton adaptations.


I always enjoyed writing in collaboration with other playmakers, like Thomas Dekker and William Rowley, early in my career. It was hard work – the companies were crying out for new plays and we had to write at great pressure, often late into the night. And it didn’t help when Dekker got thrown into prison because of his extravagant ways. But there was a real excitement about the camaraderie of the playhouse, knowing the actors you were writing for, thinking what would please audiences best, and hoping to surprise them, even shock them out of their settled ways from time to time. It was a special privilege to be asked to work with Master Shakespeare. Of course I knew his work well before getting to know him personally, and his biggest hit, Hamlet, was a great inspiration to me when I came to write The Revenger’s Tragedy. So I felt really privileged when Master Heminges told me one day that William had got stuck while writing a play about Timon of Athens.

We worked on it together in his lodgings in Silver Street, and got quite a long way, but sadly we never got round to putting the finishing touches to it. I don’t think Heminges and Condell should really have included it in the First Folio, but maybe there’s something there that could be successfully reworked. Anyhow I kept up my links with the company and after William died I was pleased to be paid to revise two of his plays, including Measure for Measure. Macbeth I was able to bring up to date and make more suitable for the Blackfriar's Playhouse by adding some songs and dances of my own. Mind you it would have been nice to be acknowledged in the First Folio – I blame Ben Jonson for that, he was always jealous of me.

Cast: Perry Mills, King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon

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