Land, City, and Mimetic Fantasy in Middleton’s Michaelmas Term

지승아/Ji Seung-a

2018, vol.28, no.1, pp. 53-75

This paper examines Thomas Middleton’s Michaelmas Term that dramatizes both the attraction and danger of London through class conflict between a landed gentry Easy and a London merchant Quomodo. Easy tries to embrace conspicuous consumption and self-indulgence in the urban life that he regards as a highly developed and refined culture. Quomodo tricks Easy into mortgaging his estate to him with the aid of his fellow tricksters Shortyard and Falselight. Quomodo’s financial scam on a credit network shows that London is an arena of struggle in which individuals pursue their own profit at the sacrifice of others. I, however, contend that the moral dichotomy of an innocent country and an evil city that the gullible Easy and the vicious Quomodo represent simplifies the play by focusing only on class conflict. While Easy and Quomodo conflict with each other as swindler and victim, they ironically have mimetic fantasies for each other. Easy has a fantasy for living as a Londoner, and is willing to do anything simply because it is in fashion in London. Quomodo, complaining that he cannot but bequeath the unfair profits he makes to his son Sim, wants to make Sim the legal heir to the estate he takes from Easy. Both Easy’s and Quomodo’s mimetic fantasies imply that their desires are not only individual but also social ones. They are rivals but at the same time the mediators who arouse desires in each other. Middleton satirizes both Easy’s foolish pursuit of the urban culture and Quomodo’s passion for upward social mobility. This paper consequently argues that Middleton puts responsibilities on individuals to restore morality and social order to corrupted London in the capitalist market economy.