The Changeling was the collaborative creation of two dramatists, Thomas Middleton (1580–1627) and William Rowley (71585–1626), who had acted in plays by Middleton and shared in the writing of at least four other Middleton plays. It was licensed for the stage on 7 May 1622, and was probably written shortly before this date, since one of the dramatists’ sources was published in March of the same year. It is generally agreed that Rowley was responsible for the opening and closing scenes and the sub-plot, while Middleton wrote the rest of the main plot, that is, 2.1-3.2, 3.4-4.2, and 5.1-2. The tragedy was first performed by Lady Elizabeth’s company at the Phoenix Theatre, Drury Lane. Success there is indicated by an early court performance at Whitehall, on 4 January 1624. Successive companies led by Christopher Beston, owner of the Phoenix, and later his son William, kept the play in their repertoire until the closing of the theatres, using both the Phoenix and the Salisbury Court playhouse in Whitefriars (built in 1629). Evidently it was the comic playing of the role of Antonio the Changeling by William Robbins and his successor Timothy Reade which particularly delighted contemporary audiences; the frontispiece to Francis Kirkman’s The Wits, or Sport upon Sport (1672) shows a ‘Changeling’ among stage figures of several famous dramatic characters.
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