By Rebecca Yearling
This publication examines the impact of John Marston, as a rule obvious as a minor determine between early smooth 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 ebook 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 scan 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 interact actively with the drama and the ethical dilemmas that it provides. The publication argues that Marston's paintings hence anticipates and maybe inspired the mid-period paintings of Ben Jonson, in performs equivalent to Sejanus, Volpone and The Alchemist.
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Extra resources for Ben Jonson, John Marston and Early Modern Drama: Satire and the Audience
The playwright could thus retain at least some degree of control and authority over his spectators while at the same time seeming to give it up. The Playwrights and the Audience 35 Marston was to use and develop this technique throughout his career. Like Lyly, he frequently flatters the audience in his prologues, appealing to their desire to see themselves as part of a courtly elite. He appears to do so, however, not merely to protect himself and his plays from censure, but also as a way of actively manipulating the spectators into approval.
The induction to this play opens with a tireman who enters to express his concern that the performance may have to be cancelled: the author, backstage, has snatched the book away from the playing company, ‘and with violence keepes the boyes from comming on the Stage’. A boy actor then appears to explain that the author was merely having last-minute concerns that the play and the actors were not yet good enough, but that he has consented to let the play take place so long as the audience will agree in advance to excuse its faults.
The satiric playwright needs to find a way of making his spectators respect and agree with his judgements, in order to bring them to share his view of the world, to recognise and condemn what he sees as the vices and follies of their society. However, the kind of secular social satire that both Jonson and Marston wrote could be accused of being highly subjective. Medieval satires like Sebastian Brant’s 1494 Ship of Fools had made their judgements from the point of view of Christian orthodoxy. Brant defined a ‘fool’ as one who has forsaken God, and so gambles his soul by his foolishness.