The ‘plentiful Lady-feast’ in Brome's A Madd Couple Well Matcht
Brome’s late city comedy A Mad Couple Well Match’d (1639) devotes specific attention to women as consumers and foregrounds the financial and erotic rivalries that consumption spurs between them. Alicia Saleware, a mercer’s wife, acquires the extravagant clothing she craves by offering sex to wealthy men—often with her husband’s consent. Lady Thrivewell, however, outsmarts her when she claims in goods from Alicia’s shop the hundred pounds that her husband has spent there for sex. The familiar city comedy equation between sex, cash, and commodities gains a fresh perspective when all three things circulate exclusively among scheming female characters. A great deal of their contact is antagonistic; much of it is homosocial, and with a cross-dressed heroine wooed by two wives, it frequently crosses into the homoerotic. This erotic and financial competition between women articulates cultural anxieties specific to Caroline London and pushes the thematic boundaries of city comedy to their outer limits.
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