The Downfall of Giles Overreach

A New Way To Pay Old Debts is a play in which the audience finds themselves truly rooting for the downfall of the bad guy.  This is different from some of the other plays we have read as most of the characters are all mixed up in circumstances that lead to terrible deeds being done by a multitude of characters.  While A New Way To Pay Old Debts does have its share of bad things being done onto others, there is a clear distinction between who is right and who is wrong.  The character of Giles Overreach feels entitled to whatever he sets his eyes on and has no moral limit as to what he will do to get it.  In contrast to the characters of Frank Wellborn and Lady Allworth who are aristocrats, Overreach has climbed up the societal ladder through unsavory means.  This connects to another major theme in the play, which is how the author portrays differences between the aristocratic class and the working class.

While Wellborn and Lady Allworth were born into money, Overreach lets the audience know fast that he has personally acquired his wealth over the years.  However, he is no hard worker having earnestly earned his new status.  This is important, because through this character choice, the author creates a clear distinction between social status; that those who are born into money are inherently better, both in morals and intelligence.  Although Overreach was able to scam Frank out of his wealth, leaving him nothing but a poor has-been, Wellborn and Lady Alllworth are still able to outsmart him, playing on his own tactics to rob him of his riches.  Overreach’s grandiose ambitions and sense of self blind him, making him not susceptible to only Wellborn’s plan, but to Lovell’s plan as well.  In the end, we see the crash and burn of Giles Overreach, ultimately being left with the idea that although he was able to acquire a higher social status, he could never make up for what he was lacking on the inside.

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2 Responses to The Downfall of Giles Overreach

  1. jbajraktari says:

    This is an example of how Giles Overreach’s name suits him perfectly. Blinded by his narrow self-interest, he is unable to see the whole picture of how relationships aren’t based on acheiving instantaneous ends. He assumes other people are motivated by the same things he is and fails to see how people have obligations to one another based on the past.

  2. Remember that he is SIR Giles Overreach and that he married Frank Allworth’s aunt. I don’t think we have a sense of him as a poor guy who pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Like the historical figure on whom Sir Giles Overreach is based, Sir Giles Mompesson, mentioned in the Norton introduction to the play, he was knighted and used his marriage to advance monopolist schemes that were carried too far.

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