John Marston (1575-1634)

This site is devoted to John Marston, Renaissance satirist and playwright. He isn't read much, but he ought to be. Here are three good reasons why:

I up do plough
The hidden entrails of rank villainy,
Tearing the veil from damned Impiety.
Quake, guzzle dogs that live on putrid slime,
Scud from the lashes of my jerking rhyme.

- From the Proem to The Scourge of Villainy.

Love? Hang love:
It is the abject outcast of the world.
Hate all things, hate the world, thyself, all men.
Hate knowledge, strive not to be over-wise:
It drew destruction into Paradise.
Hate honour, virtue, they are baits
That 'tice men's hopes to sadder fates.
Hate beauty: every ballad-monger
Can cry his idle foppish humour.
Hate riches...

- Quadratus on love in What You Will.

His appetite is as unsatiable as the grave: as far from any content as from heaven. His highest delight is to procure others' vexation, and therein he thinks he truly serves heaven; for 'tis his position, whosoever in this earth can be contented is a slave and damned; therefore does he afflict all in that to which they are most affected. The elements struggle within him; his own soul is at variance within herself; his speech is halter-worthy at all hours. I like him...

- Pietro describing Malevole in The Malcontent.

John Marston - a selective bibliography

Marston's best-known works are The Malcontent and Antonio and Mellida, best described as satirical tragicomedies, but his work runs from city comedy such as The Dutch Courtesan to classical tragedy such as Sophonisba, a play almost operatic in its innovative use of music. Marston's Satires are, perhaps, something of an acquired taste.

1. Texts of Marston:

Wood's is still the most recent complete edition of the plays. Selections include:

Both of these contain Sophonisba, Antonio and Mellida, Antonio's Revenge, The Dutch Courtesan, and The Malcontent. Individual editions include:

Jack Drum's Entertainment and Histriomastix have still not been edited individually, as far as I know. And it has been argued that the play was not written by Marston at all: see Rosalyn Knutson, "Histrio-Mastix: Not by John Marston", Studies in Philology 98 (2001): 359-77.

3. Secondary material:


Interesting on-line things:







Please mail any additions or suggestions to Matt Steggle: M.STEGGLE@SHU.AC.UK .