By Rebecca Yearling
This ebook examines the effect of John Marston, ordinarily visible as a minor determine between early sleek dramatists, on his colleague Ben Jonson. whereas Marston is generally famed extra for his very public contention with Jonson than for the standard of his performs, this publication argues that this sort of view of Marston heavily underestimates his value to the theatre of his time. In it, the writer contends that Marston's performs signify an test in a brand new form of satiric drama, with origins within the humanist culture of serio ludere. His works―deliberately unpredictable, inconsistent and metatheatrical―subvert theatrical conventions and supply confusingly a number of views at the motion, forcing their spectators to have interaction actively with the drama and the ethical dilemmas that it offers. The publication argues that Marston's paintings hence anticipates and maybe inspired the mid-period paintings of Ben Jonson, in performs resembling Sejanus, Volpone and The Alchemist.
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Additional info for Ben Jonson, John Marston and Early Modern Drama: Satire and the Audience
In his own prologues, epilogues and inductions he typically presents himself as a well-meaning but inexperienced amateur, whose plays are prefaced with speakers begging their audiences, For wit’s sake do not dream of miracles. Alas, we shall but falter if you lay The least sad weight of an unusèd hope Upon our weakness … (AM prologue 4–7) His plays, these paratexts claim, are frail, ‘slight’ things, which require tolerance and forgiveness in order to succeed. Marston’s spectators, by contrast, are characterised as having ‘Attic judgements, ablest spirits’ (Fawn prologue 24), and the author claims to hope that if they find anything displeasing about the play, they will condescend to ‘pardon his defects’ and those of the players (JDE prologue p.
Drama is not a one-way process. 3 If they do not respond to the play favourably then the only conclusion must be that ‘Art hath an enemy called ignorance’ (Induction 217). Asper thus attempts to keep control over the spectators by shaming then, insisting that to object to the play is to mark oneself out as a fool. Those who criticise his work, failing to appreciate its value, are accused of ignorance at best, and malice at worst. This argument is, of course, begging the question. Jonson cannot actually prove that his work is good by any objective method, or demonstrate why his own judgement is superior to that of his spectators.
After Marston had written the erotic fantasy The Metamorphosis of Pigmalion’s Image, he defended that poem in his next publication, The Scourge of Villainy, by claiming that it was intended as a parody of popular Ovidian poetry: he himself would never write ‘in sad seriousnes […] / Such nasty stuffe as is Pigmalion’ (Satyre VI, 6–7). Similarly, at the conclusion of The Scourge, Marston was to claim, ‘Here ends my rage, though angry brow was bent, / Yet I have sung in sporting merriment’ (Satyre XI, 239–40).