‘The Family of Love’ by Thomas Middleton

family_love_1706.jpgThe Family of Love is an early Jacobean city comedy, first published in 1608. Published anonymously, the play was long attributed to Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, although more recent scholarship suggests that Lording Barry may be the sole author. The play satirises the supposed sexual lasciviousness of the Familia Caritatis or “Family of Love,” the religious sect founded by Henry Nicholis in the 16th century. Maria is in love with Gerardine but her uncle, Glister the physician, opposes the match. Gerardine pretends to depart for a long ocean voyage, leaving a trunk containing his earthly possessions to Maria, but when Maria opens the trunk she finds Gerardine inside. Meanwhile, Glister cheats on his wife with the Familist wife of Purge the apothecary. Two dim-witted gallants, Gudgeon and Lipsalve, try to bed every woman they meet and want nothing more than to gain access to the secretive Familist Meeting House, which rumor has it is a bastion of free-love. With the help of Dryfat the merchant and Club the apprentice, Gerardine stages a mock trial with the intention of teaching everyone a lesson.

The Family of Love by Thomas Middleton

I played a devilish Mistress Purge.

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