By: Thomas Middleton (1580-1627)
Thomas Middleton's masterful 17th century tragedy is packed with adultery, incest, intrigue, revenge, and inventive methods for murder. Leantio elopes with Bianca against her family's wishes and tries to hide her in the house he shares with his widowed mother. Yet the Duke sees Bianca at the window and is powerfully attracted to her, threatening Leantio's security. Livia, a wealthy widow, delights in intrigue, aiding the Duke to satisfy his desires with Bianca, and bringing together her brother Hippolito with her niece Isabella, despite their familial relationship. Yet even Livia is not immune to love. The final play-within-a-play in Act 5, one of the goriest and most sensational conclusions to a Jacobean tragedy, is also (like the play as a whole) laced with dark humor.