Philip Massinger

A New Way to Pay Old Debts

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A New Way to Pay Old Debts Summary

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“A New Way to Pay Old Debts” is a Renaissance play by Philip Massinger. It was completed in 1625 and first performed in 1626. The play considers the debts that King James accrued, and how these debts should be repaid by the new king. It also looks at social mobility throughout the early Stuart era. It is Massinger’s most popular play. Massinger was an English playwright active in the early 17th century. His plays are known for their heavy social and political themes, and for blending realism and satire.

“A New Way to Pay Old Debts” is set in Nottinghamshire, England. The central character is Frank Wellborn. He is a young man who comes from a wealthy, upper-middle-class family, but he recently lost all his money. He claims that a man called Sir Giles Overreach is responsible for his financial woes. This man encouraged him to drink, gamble, and pay for prostitutes, and now he’s penniless.

When the play opens, Frank is drunk and causing trouble in an alehouse owned by Tapwell and his wife, Froth. Although they agreed to serve him ale and tobacco for a while, they’re tired of him and ask him to leave. In response, he attacks Tapwell and causes a raucous in the tavern.

After the fight, Frank reveals that Sir Giles Overreach is his uncle. Giles, apparently, is very sneaky. Although he loaned Frank money to fund his decadent lifestyle and love affairs, he secured these loans over Frank’s property. He then called in these debts at once, and because Frank can’t pay, he seized all his assets. Tapwell and Froth don’t care about Frank’s sad story, and they ask him to leave the tavern.

When Frank leaves, he meets a once-rich man called Allworth. Allworth blames Giles for his financial troubles too. He is now a local nobleman’s pageboy, and he hates his life. The nobleman pays him a modest salary, and he says he’ll loan Frank some money to sort himself out. Frank doesn’t take the money because he can’t afford the repayments.

Meanwhile, Giles travels around the countryside, looking for a wife. He sets his sights on Allworth’s mother, Lady Allworth. Unsurprisingly, Lady Allworth rejects him. She knows he is cruel and untrustworthy. She warns her son to avoid Frank because he’s poor now. She worries that, if Frank and Allworth stay friends, Giles will come back around.

Frank finds out what Lady Allworth said about him. He turns up at the house. He reminds her that he bailed her husband out more than once when he needed money. Without Frank, the Allworth family would be in penury. Lady Allworth accepts this is true and she asks Frank for his forgiveness. Frank doesn’t want apologies, though. He calls in a favor instead.

In the meantime, Allworth returns to his new master, Lord Lovell. When speaking with Lord Lovell, Allworth admits that he loves Giles’s daughter, Margaret. Lord Lovell encourages the courtship because he is an old romantic at heart. The problem is that Giles wants to marry Margaret to Lord Lovell himself. Lord Lovell doesn’t know how to tell Allworth this.

Everything gets more complicated when Marall, Giles’s servant, sees Frank with Lady Allworth. Marall assumes that they’re courting. He tells Giles about this and they agree to support the match. After all, if Frank marries Lady Allworth, Giles can cheat him out the Allworth estate before her son is old enough to inherit it.

One day, Giles approaches Frank. He says that he wants to loan Frank £1,000. Frank takes the money because he can’t resist his uncle’s charms, no matter how hard he tries. Meanwhile, Allworth courts Margaret. Giles doesn’t suspect a thing. Lord Lovell sits back and watches everything unfold. He must find a way out of marrying Margaret because he can’t break Allworth’s heart.

One day, Margaret discovers her father’s plans. She tells Allworth and they concoct their own strategy. They fool Giles into thinking that Lord Lovell is so besotted with Margaret that he plans on eloping with her. Giles gives his blessing. What he doesn’t know is that he’s just consented to Margaret marrying Allworth. They marry and consummate their relationship.

Margaret carries on the charade for a while longer. She even returns home and claims that she eloped with Lord Lovell. Giles can hardly contain his excitement, which makes it more satisfying for Margaret when she reveals that her husband is Allworth. Furious, Sir Giles Overreach plans on disowning her. He can’t believe his careful plans are all unraveling.

Meanwhile, Frank asks Lord Lovell for a job. He doesn’t want handouts anymore. Lord Lovell asks him to join his military regiment, which he accepts. Everyone is proud of Frank for reforming. Giles goes mad and loses control of his affairs. At the end, Margaret plans on reinstating Frank’s land because she now controls her father’s business interests.