The Bondman Essay - Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

Philip Massinger

Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

The background of this play, which deals with an uprising of slaves who are overthrown not by weaponry but a display of whips, could have come from a number of sources—Justin, Giles Fletcher’s RUSS COMMONWEALTH, Herodotus, or Diodorus, who places the event in Sicily as Massinger does. Another bit of Sicilian history is added with the appearance of Timoleon, who was the subject of one of Plutarch’s LIVES and is the Corinthian general who aids the Sicilians in the defeat of the Carthaginians. Placement of the setting in Sicily was likely Massinger’s attempt to have the audience draw parallels with their own island-state: Corinth came to Sicily’s aid against Carthage as Holland hoped Britain would ally with her against Spain. With only this parallel as a beginning, it is a wonder that Sir Henry Herbert, Master of Revels, licensed the play on December 3, 1623 for a performance by the Lady Elizabeth’s Men.

Indeed, throughout THE BONDMAN, Massinger maintains his reputation for paralleling contemporary political events with his dramatic writing, and offering outspoken observations on the first two Stuart kings and their government—honestly criticizing what he saw and condemning that of which he disapproved. His view of politics, however, was really more moralistic than partisan. For example, many of the allusions made in THE BONDMAN are directed toward the vain and dissolute favorite of Charles I—the Duke of...

(The entire section is 540 words.)