Written for the adult players at the open-air Swan theatre in 1613, this master-piece of Jacobean city comedy signals its ironic nature even in the title: chaste maids, like most other goods and people in London's busiest commercial area, are likely to be fake. Money is more important than either happiness or honour; and the most coveted commodities to be bought with it are sex and social prestige. Middleton interweaves the fortunes of four families, who either seek to marry their children off as profitably as possible, to stop having any more for fear of poverty, or to acquire some in order to keep their property in the family. Most prosperous is the husband who pimps his wife to a rich knight and lets him support the household with his alimony. Like many early modern critics of London's enormous growth, this play warned: the city is a monster that lives off the money the country produces.
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