The Changeling by Thomas Middleton: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

''The Changeling'' by Thomas Middleton is the tragic story of love gone wrong and treachery. There are two story lines within the play, and both show the challenges of love.


Although Thomas Middleton is known for writing The Changeling, there is another author as well, William Rowley. Although Middleton wrote more of the play, Rowley wrote all of Act I and contributed to Acts II and III. Rowley wrote the subplot of the story, while Middleton focused on the main plot. Both plots and ideas were actually taken from a story collection from the 1620s by John Reynolds.


Due to the detailed nature of this play, it may be necessary to refer to a character list to truly understand all the different relationships and love stories.

Alibius - A doctor that runs an insane asylum. He is very jealous of his much younger wife, Isabella.

Alsemero - A noble gentleman from Valencia who meets and falls in love with Beatrice, even though Beatrice is engaged to another.

Antonio - A man who pretends to be crazy to be committed to the insane asylum where the woman he loves, Isabella, is.

Beatrice - Known also as Joanna, she is the daughter of Vermandero and is very vain and selfish. She falls head over heels for Alsemero, although she is betrothed to another.

De Flores - An unattractive servant of Vermandero who is obsessed with Beatrice.

Diaphanta - Beatrice's maid who replaces Beatrice in Alsemero's bed so that Beatrice can be proven a virgin.

Franciscus - Another man who pretends to be mad to be committed so he can tell Isabella how much he loves her.

Isabella - Young wife of the doctor at the asylum. She is beautiful and attracts many suitors, but she is honest and sticks with her husband.

Jasperino - Friend of Alsemero and one of the people who overhears Beatrice's machinations.

Lollio - Alibius' servant who is in love with Isabella. He gives misinformation to Isabella's suitors in hopes of getting them to kill each other.

Alonzo - Betrothed to Beatrice, he is a well-respected nobleman.

Tomazo - Alonzo's brother who knows that Beatrice does not love his brother.

Vermandero - Beatrice's father and an old friend of Alsemero's father.

Story Summary

In this story you have two plots. The first is centered around Beatrice and the men that want her: Alonzo, her betrothed, and Alsemero. Beatrice is engaged to Alonzo, but once she meets Alsemero while he is in port, they fall in love at first sight. Alsemero, realizing that Beatrice is engaged but trying to be honorable, wants to challenge Alonzo to a duel. Beatrice convinces him not to, but instead starts plotting with De Flores to have Alonzo killed. Alsemero does not know of Beatrice's plan and goes on wooing her and believing that she is an innocent. Beatrice, however, convinces De Flores to kill Alonzo, but then has to pay him with sex because De Flores has been obsessed with Beatrice for years.

Alonzo has been warned by his brother Tomazo not to marry Beatrice, but he is besotted with her beauty. He is eventually killed by De Flores while giving him a castle tour. At this point Franciscus and Antonio get themselves committed in hopes of wooing Isabella, the doctor's young wife. However, Lollio, the doctor's servant, is tasked with keeping her safe from the attention of others and is in love with her as well. Lollio then starts to tell both Franciscus and Antonio that Isabella loves one and not the other, in hopes of getting them to kill each other. An additional twist is that because of the timing of when the two potential lovers are committed, they are also suspects in the death of Alonzo.

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