Advertisement

John Marston: Provoking the Audience

  • Rebecca Yearling

Abstract

In T.S. Eliot’s influential 1934 essay on John Marston, he writes of his ‘bewilderment’ at Marston’s Antonio plays:

A blockhead could not have written them; a painstaking blockhead would have done better; and a careless master, or a careless dunce, would not have gone out of his way to produce the effects of nonsensicality with which we meet. These two plays give the effect of work done by a man who was so exasperated by having to write in a form which he despised that he deliberately wrote worse than he could have written, in order to relieve his feelings.1

Keywords

Romantic Love Human Desire Happy Ending Virtuous Leader Moral Ambiguity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    T.S. Eliot, ‘John Marston’, Elizabethan Dramatists (London: Faber and Faber, 1963) pp. 155–6.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    David L. Frost, The School of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968) p. 182.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Anthony Caputi, John Marston, Satirist (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1961);Google Scholar
  4. R.A. Foakes, ‘John Marston’s Fantastical Plays: Antonio and Mellida and Antonio’s Revenge’, Philological Quarterly 41 (1962) pp. 229–39;Google Scholar
  5. R.A. Foakes, Marston and Tourneur, Writers and Their Works (Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1978).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    T.F. Wharton, The Critical Fall and Rise of John Marston (Columbia SC: Camden House, 1994) pp. 105–6.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Alexander Leggatt, English Drama: Shakespeare to the Restoration, 1590–1660 (London: Longman, 1988) p. 119.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    James Bednarz, Shakespeare and the Poets’ War (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001) p. 149.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Patrick Buckridge, ‘Safety in Fiction: Marston’s Recreational Poetics’, in The Drama of John Marston: Critical Re-Visions, ed. T.F. Wharton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) p. 75.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Stanley Fish, ‘Literature in the Reader’, in Is There A Text in This Class?: The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1980) p. 48.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Foucault, ‘The Masked Philosopher’, trans. Alan Sheridan, in Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth: Essential Works of Foucault, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: New Press, 1997): pp. 325–6.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    For example, Axelrad writes ‘Le seul intérêt de ces deux essais [Histriomastix and Jack Drum] est d’avoir constitué un épisode de la guerre de théâtres.’ [‘The only interest of these two texts is that they constitute an episode in the war of the theatres’]. A. J. Axelrad, Un malcontent Elizabéthain: John Marston, 1576–1634 (Paris: Didier, 1955) p. 56.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Bednarz, Poets’ War p. 133; Macdonald P. Jackson and Michael Neill, The Selected Plays of John Marston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) p. xii;Google Scholar
  14. George L. Geckle, John Marston’s Drama: Themes, Images, Sources (London: Associated University Press, 1980) p. 59.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    Jacqueline Pearson, Tragedy and Tragicomedy in the Works of John Webster (Manchester University Press, 1980) p. 21.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    Philip J. Finkelpearl, John Marston of the Middle Temple: An Elizabethan Dramatist in His Social Setting (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1969) p. 165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 23.
    Jonathan Dollimore notes how several of the characters in the Antonio plays face a similar dilemma to that of Albano: alienated from their societies, their sense of identity (and with it, their sanity) is threatened. ‘Bereaved, dispossessed, and in peril of their lives, they suffer extreme disorientation and are pushed to the very edge of mental collapse. […] Faced with a dislocated world, individual consciousness itself becomes dislocated’. Dollimore , Radical Tragedy (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1984) pp. 29, 31.Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    For a discussion of the importance of genre in guiding audience response, see Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    Rick Bowers, Radical Comedy in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008) p. 72.Google Scholar
  20. 38.
    Charles A. Hallett and Elaine S. Hallett, ‘Antonio’s Revenge and the Integrity of Revenge Tragedy Motifs’, Studies in Philology 76.4 (1979) p. 366.Google Scholar
  21. 40.
    R.A. Foakes, Shakespeare: The Dark Comedies to the Last Plays: From Satire to Celebration (Charlottesville VA: University of Virginia Press, 1971) pp. 40, 70. A more recent version of Foakes’ argument appears in Bowers’ Radical Comedy pp. 71–82.Google Scholar
  22. 42.
    John Kerrigan, Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996) pp. 209–10.Google Scholar
  23. 45.
    Baines discusses this audience-response aspect in her ‘Antonio’s Revenge: Marston’s Play on Revenge Plays’. She sees the structure of the play as one that repeatedly encourages a ‘dual response’ from its spectators — emotional engagement versus moral judgement — and sees the final scene as the climax of this technique, as the audience is allowed the cathartic release of the expected murder, and is then confronted with a sense of moral unease at what they have seen. Barbara J. Baines, ‘Antonio’s Revenge: Marston’s Play on Revenge Plays’, Studies in English Literature 23 (1983): pp. 277–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 49.
    Albert H. Tricomi, Reading Tudor-Stuart Texts Through Cultural Historicism (Gainesville FL: Florida University Press, 1996) p. 66.Google Scholar
  25. 52.
    Verna Foster, The Name and Nature of Tragicomedy (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004) p. 50.Google Scholar
  26. 54.
    Frank Whigham, ‘Flattering Courtly Desire: John Marston’s The Fawn,’ in The Theatrical City: Culture, Theatre and Politics in London, 1576–1649, ed. David L. Smith, Richard Strier and David Bevington (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) p. 141.Google Scholar
  27. 55.
    Alexander Leggatt, Introduction to English Renaissance Comedy (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999) p. 81.Google Scholar
  28. 56.
    See, for example, Scott, who complains that Altofronto is ‘impotent in the face of political expediency and judgment … [His failure to execute Mendoza] is an example of his affectation and self-adulation, and is consequently dangerous’, since Mendoza could continue ‘to more Machiavellian schemes’ in future. Michael Scott, John Marston’s Plays: Theme, Structure and Performance (London: Methuen, 1978) pp. 30–1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 57.
    Jason Lawrence, for example, comments that Scott’s reading (quoted in the previous note) ‘misunderstands the generic implications of the denouement […] Death has no part in Guarinian or Marstonian tragicomedy, where the denouement deliberately denies the tragic ending by preventing death from entering the dramatic world’. Jason Lawrence, ‘Re-make/re-model: Marston’s The Malcontent and Guarinian Tragicomedy’, in Italian Culture in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, ed. Michele Marrapodi (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007) p. 166.Google Scholar
  30. See also Lucy Munro, Children of the Queen’s Revels: A Jacobean Theatre Repertory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) p. 111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 62.
    Harry Keyishian, ‘Dekker’s Whore and Marston’s Courtesan’, English Language Notes 4 (1967) p. 366.Google Scholar
  32. 65.
    A similar problem arises with the play’s treatment of English responses to ‘foreignness’. Franceschina is a pan-national character — a Dutch woman whose speech involves a ‘helter-skelter of Germanic, French, Italian, as well as pure English, pronunciation’ (Wine, ‘Introduction’ p. xix, note 15) — and in this she may be seen as representative of the growing cosmopolitanism of early modern London. As Jean Howard notes, in rejecting her, Freevill chooses ‘the purity of a good English marriage’ over the dangerous allure of the foreign. However, we are given an alternative perspective to Freevill’s ‘defensive … Englishness’ in the character of Cocledemoy: the loveable rogue of the subplot. Cocledemoy does not retreat from the foreign; instead, he masters it, showing throughout the play his ability to impersonate those of other nationalities, while always remaining essentially himself. Asarsu, ‘Cocledemoy represents an Englishness dependent upon quick wits, libertine sexuality, and the cosmopolitan ability to observe and master otherness without being destroyed by it’. The play thus offers two different types of Englishness in Freevill and Cocledemoy, with Marston, characteristically, making it difficult if not impossible for us to know which of these might be considered the ideal. See Howard , Theatre of a City: The Places of London Comedy 1598–1642 (Philadelphia PA: Pennsylvania University Press, 2007) pp. 151–7.Google Scholar
  33. 67.
    William M. Hamlin, ‘Common Customers in Marston’s Dutch Courtesan and Florio’s Montaigne,’ Studies in English Literature 52.2 (2012) p. 420.Google Scholar
  34. 71.
    Joel Kaplan, ‘John Marston’s Fawn: A Saturnalian Satire’, Studies in English Literature 9.2 (1969) pp. 347–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 75.
    Jeremy Lopez, Theatrical Convention and Audience Response in Early Modern Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) p. 150.Google Scholar
  36. 79.
    Douglas Duncan, ‘Ben Jonson’s Lucianic Irony’, ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 1.2 (1970) p. 48.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Rebecca Yearling 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Yearling
    • 1
  1. 1.Keele UniversityUK

Personalised recommendations