Title: MIDDLETON AND ROWLEY'S THE CHANGELING ,  By: Daalder, Joost, Moore, Antony Telford, Explicator, 00144940, Fall98, Vol. 57, Issue 1
Database: MasterFILE Premier

Jasperino.'Twas Diaphanta's chance--for to that wench
I pretend honest love, and she deserves it 90
To leave me in a back part of the house,
A place we chose for private conference;
She was no sooner gone but instantly
I heard your bride's voice in the next room to me,
And, lending more attention, found De Flores 95
Louder than she.
Alsemero. De Flores? Thou art out now.
Jasperino. You'll tell me more anon.
Alsemero. Still I'll prevent thee;
The very sight of him is poison to her.
Jasperino. That made me stagger too, but Diaphanta
At her return confirmed it.
Alsemero. Diaphanta! 100
Jasperino. Then fell we both to listen, and words passed
Like those that challenge interest in a woman--Alsemero.
Peace, quench thy zeal; 'tis dangerous to thy
bosom. (4.2.89-103)(n1)

Alsemero's "bride" (94), Beatrice, has no doubt, as Jasperino suspects, had sex with De Flores on this, her wedding day. In 4.1, the preceding scene of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's tragedy, Beatrice is presented as Alsemero's bride in the show with which act 4 begins. A practical difficulty she has to face is that Alsemero is likely to discover that, because De Flores has deflowered her, she is no longer a virgin. Hence she persuades Diaphanta, her lady in waiting, to take her place in Alsemero's bed. It does not seem that she and De Flores are about to give up their sexual relationship, which has existed since the end of act 3. Some 60 lines before the passage quoted above we see De Flores in hot pursuit of her, asking Tomazo: "Saw you the bride? Good sweet sir, which way took she?" (38); and when he does not immediately get an answer he asks again: "You did not see the bride then?" (49).

This eagerness points to continued physical contact between De Flores and Beatrice. Intercourse between them appears to have become habitual by 4.2, so that De Flores can speak in 5.1, later that night, of "the safety of us both, / Our pleasure and continuance" (49-50). Jasperino's report of what he and Diaphanta have overheard earlier in the day refers to a real and illicit meeting between De Flores and Beatrice, a meeting possibly to be thought of as occurring subsequent to De Flores's questions to Tomazo about Beatrice's whereabouts. The more important connection between De Flores's questions and Jasperino's report, though, is that the evidence cumulatively establishes that the bride and De Flores did have sex on this day rather than allowing the audience to pinpoint the precise moment of their tryst.

There are several delicious ironies in what Jasperino has to tell us. He considers Diaphanta deserving of his "honest love" (90), and as she is still a virgin he is, strictly speaking, not mistaken, but we already know that she has declared herself prepared to act as Beatrice's substitute in Alsemero's bed. On the other hand, the "private conference" (92) of Diaphanta and Jasperino proves a tame affair, as Diaphanta is obviously still a virgin when Alsemero later sleeps with her. Diaphanta is a sexually eager woman, but not an experienced one. Beatrice, who is of a higher class and could therefore be expected by Middleton and Rowley's audience to be "purer," is in fact already sexually experienced, and the way she deceives Alsemero--by not sleeping with him as his bride, by persuading Diaphanta to take her place, and by having sex with De Flores--is highly complicated.

This prompts us to consider Jasperino's statement in lines 101-02, that "words passed [between De Flores and Beatrice] / Like those that challenge interest in a woman." In Daalder's edition, the woman is taken to be Diaphanta. He glosses challenge as "claim," and suggests that Diaphanta's "interest as a woman is no doubt the greater in view of her meeting with Beatrice in IV.i" (81). (In that scene, Beatrice had claimed to be afraid of sex, and had persuaded Diaphanta to act as her substitute.)

We--Daalder and Moore--have, however, come to the conclusion that the woman may very well not be Diaphanta, but Beatrice. Of course a woman is general, and could refer to either of these two women, or numerous others. In this sense, Jasperino presumably means that what he and Diaphanta heard De Flores say to Beatrice was of such a nature that a woman listening to those words could hardly fail to be interested in them. This suggests, further, that De Flores's words were almost certainly of a sexual kind and sufficiently explicit to persuade Jasperino to warn Alsemero about his wife's conduct. But there seem to be two important senses in which the woman may be Beatrice in particular: (1) If De Flores's words provoked an interest, that is, a sense of involvement, in Diaphanta, they must have done so in Beatrice's case too, and of course it is that woman who was originally meant to be affected by them. What prompts Jasperino to act on them is not Diaphanta's interest in them, but that they were so unequivocal that Beatrice's interest could safely be assumed. Thus Jasperino's statement about the words being such as claim an interest in a woman can be read as little more than a euphemism for saying that they established beyond doubt that Beatrice and De Flores were engaged in sexual activity. Of course, this does not mean that Diaphanta was not interested in what she had heard, but that her interest is not necessarily in Jasperino's mind at the time he relates the incident to Alsemero. (2) A further interpretation offers itself if the phrase challenge interest in is taken to mean "undermine or question (sole) possession of," with interest used in the sense of "right," "claim," or "possession." (This sense of interest is frequent in Shakespeare, as in King Lear, 1.1.49-50, "we will divest us both of rule, / Interest of territory, cares of state.")(n2) In this reading, Jasperino appears to be saying that the words he and Diaphanta overheard were of the kind that prompt doubts about a man's claim to sole possession of a woman--that is, that Alsemero has cause to doubt his assumption of sole sexual possession of Beatrice. Readers who are convinced that challenge interest in does indeed mean "undermine or question (sole) possession of" will inevitably believe that the woman alluded to is Beatrice, not Diaphanta.


(n1.) Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changeling, ed. Joost Daalder, New Mermaid Series (New York: Norton, 1990; repr. 1997).

(n2.) The Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. David Bevington, 4th ed. (New York: Harper, 1992).


By JOOST DAALDER, Flinders University of South Australia and ANTONY TELFORD MOORE, Kyoto University, Japan