Thomas Middleton’s bawdy tale of dupes and tricksters was staged with a 1950s setting. Although all appears wholesome and virtuous on the surface, the play’s action reveals that wives, grandsons, and lovers are hardly to be trusted in a society where almost anyone can turn out to be a con artist.
First performed in London in 1604/5, A Mad World, My Masters tells the tale of a young gallant, Dick Follywit, seeking his inheritance before his grandfather, Sir Bounteous Progress, dies. Follywit and his cronies masquerade as Lord Owemuch and his servants, bandits, a courtesan and her pimps, and - finally - as actors in order to steal from Sir Bounteous.
Meanwhile, the Courtesan - Frank Gullman - and Penitent Brothel have set up a plot to allow Penitent to seduce Mistress Harebrain in spite of her husband, the jealous Master Harebrain.
Follywit's schemes begin to grow too complicated for even him to manage, and he falls victim to - and in love with - the Courtesan, making her an "honest woman."
The play ends to the satisfaction of all, with all tricks repaid and both Follywit and the Courtesan having achieved their aims.