Jonson and Marston: ‘I write just in thy vein, I’

  • Rebecca Yearling


Jonson, we know, prized the virtue of self-sufficiency. In his prologues, epilogues and inductions, he insists that he is not a man to be swayed by the opinions of others; his own judgement is what counts. He believes that a good writer should read widely and engage in serious scholarly thought, but he is contemptuous of those who simply follow literary fads and imitate what is currently fashionable. Most poets have ‘servile imitating spirits’ (EMO induction 65), but Jonson has no interest in courting popularity in that way. Instead, he sees himself as an artist and scholar, whose only real literary debts are to the great classical authors: satirists such as Horace, Lucian, ‘Aristophanes […] / Persius […] Or Juvenal’ (AD 177–8); poets and dramatists like Catullus, Ovid and Plautus; and historians like Tacitus, Suetonius and Dio. By contrast, when he makes reference to contemporary playwrights — Marston, Dekker, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Francis Beaumont, Shakespeare — his attitude is typically ambivalent at best, and he never admits that they have had any influence on his own works. The title page to the quarto edition of Every Man Out offers the Horatian tag, ‘Non aliena meo pressi pede’ (‘I did not walk in the steps of others’). The prologue to Cynthia’s Revels proclaims that, ‘In this alone [the author’s] muse her sweetness hath: / She shuns the print of any beaten path’ (9–10).


Dung Beetle Public Humiliation Early Play Moral Satisfaction Romantic Comedy 
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Copyright information

© Rebecca Yearling 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Yearling
    • 1
  1. 1.Keele UniversityUK

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