Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Most of Thomas Middleton's works, as well as his personal background, indicate that his theological inclinations were Calvinistic. Many of his plays display his regard for "protestant" morality or his contempt for Roman Catholics and fringe elements of the Reform movement. His early and middle plays also satirize Puritans, who, although basically loyal subjects, were offensive to both Elizabeth I and James I because they urged greater reforms within the orthodox Church and criticized practices of which both monarchs were fond. During the reign of James, Puritans, largely from the middle class, became particularly unpopular among the gentry and courtier classes. Since Middleton associated with these upper classes, he joined in the chorus against Puritans during the early years of James' reign, accusing them of greed, licentiousness, hypocrisy, and even heresy. However, as the king's influence caused the official Church to move away from Calvinism and toward Arminianism, Middleton's attitudes toward Puritans softened. Already in agreement with their basic religious and moral values, he began to sympathize with bourgeoise Puritans, particularly after James attempted an alliance with England's enemy, Catholic Spain, and after many prominent members of the Puritan faction began to support him and his work. While few of Middleton's plays straightforwardly glorify the Genevan ideal, those which address "deviant" religious philosophies and cults illustrate his Calvinistic tendencies. The plays in which the protagonists view the honor code or romantic love as religious ideals reveal that Middleton's sympathy lay with characters who remained faithful to Christian principles while simultaneously paying tribute to the honor or romantic precepts. The dramatist never championed those who allowed their dedication to those ethics to supercede Christian spirituality. Rather, he portrayed them as immoral, blind, or depraved, and they unfailingly meet their doom because they have ignored the first commandment.