Shakerley Marmion Essay - Critical Essays

Marmion, Shakerley

Introduction

Shakerley Marmion 1603-1639

(Also Shakerly, Shackerley, Shackerly, and Schackerley; also Marmyon, Mermion, and Marmyun) English playwright and poet.

One of the so-called “Sons of Ben,” Marmion adapted the rules of comedic drama propounded by the playwright Ben Jonson to his own works centering around the theme of Platonic love. Although he is considered only a minor figure in English drama whose works lack depth and complexity, he has been praised for his graceful style. In addition to his three plays, Holland's Leaguer (1631), A Fine Companion (c. 1632-33), and The Antiquary (c. 1635), Marmion composed a long narrative in heroic couplets, The Legend of Cupid and Psyche (1637), and wrote occasional verse.

Biographical Information

Marmion was born in January 1603 in Northamptonshire, the son of a country gentleman who was chronically in debt. Marmion attended the Free School at Thame, Oxfordshire, and then went to Wadham College, Oxford, where he received an M.A. in 1624. The details are unclear, but there is some evidence that he was charged with a crime just after he left Oxford. There is no record of Marmion's activities between 1624 and 1629, but it is likely he was living in London and evading the law and then serving in the military, perhaps in the Low Countries. He may also have associated with Jonson during this time. In 1629 Marmion was indicted for having assaulted a man named Edward Moore with a sword and injuring him in the head. He began his brief career as a poet and playwright in the early 1630s, and associated with the playwright and poet Thomas Heywood, as well as others in Jonson's circle. After writing poetry that appeared in various anthologies and producing three plays, he fell out of sight once again from 1635 to 1637, possibly because the plague that swept through London closed many theaters during this time. In 1637 Marmion published his verse narrative Cupid and Psyche, and the following year he composed an elegy to his mentor, Jonson, the last of his works to appear in print. In 1638 he joined a private military expedition to Scotland organized by his friend Sir John Suckling, but he became ill en route and returned to London. He died shortly thereafter, in 1639.

Major Works

Jonson's influence is clearly apparent in Marmion's three plays. His first work, Holland's Leaguer, which takes place in a brothel, has its share of dandies and witty young women, and there are frequent allusions to classical sources. The play is a work of comic satire that attempts to explore the idea of Platonic love, and while the insights are interesting, critics note, the dramatic intrigue and the plot are often unconvincingly wrought. His next play, A Fine Companion, is considered a better dramatic effort. This comedy of intrigue involves a pair of Platonic lovers, Aurelio and Valeria. Aurelio is disinherited because he is in love with the same woman as his father; his younger brother, Carelesse, has thus inherited Aurelio's rightful patrimony. Marmion was clearly indebted to Jonson's theory of humours characterization in this play, which is populated by a number of individuals who are defined by a particular psychological trait. The Antiquary, considered Marmion's best work, departs slightly from his earlier two works in that it satirizes the idea of Platonic love that he treated sympathetically in his previous efforts. The main plot also involves a pair of lovers, and the subplot concerns the deception of the antiquary Veterano by his nephew. Like his other plays, The Antiquary shows Marmion to be a playwright of limited depth, but the plot of this work is judged considerably more complex and the satire more pointed. The 2,000-line mythological poem Cupid and Psyche is made up of a translation of Apuleius's The Golden Ass supplemented by Marmion's own verses. Many consider Marmion's additions to be superior to the original, and the poem is widely regarded as his finest work.

Critical Reception

All three of Marmion's plays were produced in the 1630s, and there is some evidence indicating that they were well received. Holland's Leaguer was performed on six successive days—a significant run for the time—and A Fine Companion was performed for royalty. The Antiquary was the only one of his plays to be republished in collections of plays after his death. Although his graceful style was admired by the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne and the novelist Walter Scott, Marmion is chiefly remembered as one of the many Caroline playwrights who were influenced by Jonson's rules of comedy and whose works anticipated the tone and style of Restoration drama. Marmion has never enjoyed renown as a poet, but the modern scholars who have investigated his career regard Cupid and Psyche as his strongest work.

Principal Works

Holland's Leaguer (play) 1631

A Fine Companion (play) c. 1632-33

The Antiquary (play) c. 1635

A Morall Poem, Intituled The Legend of Cupid and Psyche (poetry) 1637

Criticism

James Maidment and W. H. Logan (essay date 1875)

SOURCE: Maidment, James and Logan, W. H. “Prefatory Notice.” In The Dramatic Works of Shackerley Marmion. pp. ix-xxii. London: H. Sotheran & Co., 1875.

[In the following essay, Maidment and Logan provide some background on Marmion and his family, discuss the editions of his major works, and delineate the “Argument” and “Mythology” of Cupid and Psyche.]

The name of the author of the following plays, three in number, has been variously spelt and its correct pronunciation consequently rendered doubtful. On the title-page of the first play, printed in 1632, he is called “Schackerley Marmyon, Master of Arts;” next year, on the second, he is entered as “Shakerley Marmyon;” and, thirdly, in 1641, he appears as “Shackerly Mermion, Gent.” Although Mr Singer, in his elegant reprint of this author's Poem of Cupid and Psyche, which emanated from the Chiswick Press in 1820, inclines to call him Shakerley Marmion, our bias, guided by the preponderance of authority, is in favour of his being designated “Shackerley Marmion.”

Shakerly, however, was an ancient family name in England. Francis, fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, who died on 25th September 1560, according to Collins,1 took as his second wife “Grace, daughter of Robert Shakerley of Little Longdon in Derbyshire, Esq., but had no issue by her.” Lodge says she was the widow of Robert Shakerley of Holme in Cheshire.

The name was territorial, and the chief of the family was Sir Jeffrey Shakerly of Shakerly, in the county of Lancaster. His eldest son George married Anne, youngest daughter of Sir Walter Bagot of Bagot, who died 15th February 1704, in the sixtieth year of his age.

Shackerley Marmion, it is surmized by Singer, “was descended from the ancient and noble family of the Marmions of Scrivelsby,” in whom was vested the hereditary right to appear at the coronation of the Sovereigns of England as Champion. Of Mr Singer's assertion there is no legal evidence, but it is certainly true that the Office of King's Champion was inherited by the Marmions of Scrivelsby.

The Marmions, Lords of Fontney in Normandy, came over with William the Conqueror, being represented in the person of Robert de Marmion, who obtained a grant of the castle and town of Tamworth, in the county of Warwick, as well as of the manor of Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire, the tenure of the latter being hereditary service as Royal Champion, at coronations; an office which it is said his ancestors had exercised in relation to the Dukes of Normandy. The family became extinct in the 20th Edward I., Philip de Marmion, the fifth Baron, having died without male issue. His grand-daughter, Mazera, having been married to Alexander de Freville, he, in right of his wife, succeeded to Tamworth Castle. At the coronation of Richard II., Sir Baldwin de Freville, Knight, their grandson, then holding Tamworth Castle, appeared in virtue of the tenure to perform the duty of Royal Champion—that is, to ride, completely armed, into Westminster Hall, upon a barbed steed, and there to challenge the combat with whomsoever should dare to oppose the King's title to the Crown, a service which the Barons de Marmion, his ancestors, had theretofore performed; but the preference was given to Sir John Dymoke, to whom the Manor of Scrivelsby had descended by an heir female of Sir Thomas Ludlowe, Knt., by Joane, youngest daughter and coheir of the said Philip, the last Baron Marmion of Tamworth. The representative of that family is till the present day Hereditary Champion of England. The Earls Ferrers are the descendants, and possess the estates of the family of Freville.

The form and ceremony observed in introducing the Champion on the day of the Coronation of James II. is given in a History of his Coronation, “illustrated with exquisite Sculptures, and published by his Majesty's especial command, by Francis Sandford, Lancaster Herald of Arms, anno 1687:”—

Before the second course was brought in, Sir Charles Dymoke, Knt., the King's Champion—son and heir of Sir Edward Dymoke, Knt., who performed the like service at the coronation of his Majesty Charles II.—completely armed in one of his majesty's best suits of white armour, mounted on a goodly white horse, richly caparisoned, entered the hall in manner following, viz.:—

Two trumpets, with the champion's arms on their banner.

The Serjeant trumpet, with his mace on his shoulder; two serjeants at arms, with their maces on their shoulders.

The champion's two esquires, richly habited; one on the right hand, with the champion's lance carried upright; the other on the left hand, with his target, and the champion's arms depicted thereon.

York Herald, with a paper in his hand, containing the words of the challenge.

The champion on horseback, with a gauntlet in his right hand, his helmet on his head, adorned with a great plume of feathers, white, blue, and red.

On his right “The Earl Marshall in his robes and coronet on horseback, with marshall's staff in his hand.” On his left “The Lord High Constable in his robes and coronet on horseback, with the constable's staff.”

Four pages, richly apparelled, attendants on the Champion.

The passage to their Majesties' table being cleared by the Knight Marshall, York herald, with a loud voice, proclaimed the Champion's challenge, viz.:—

“If any person, of what degree soever, high or low, shall deny or gainsay our Sovereign Lord King, &c., &c., &c., to be right heir to the imperial crown of this realm of England, or that he ought not to enjoy the same, here is his Champion, who saith that he lieth, and is a false traitor, being ready in person to combat with him; and in this quarrel will adventure his life against him on what day soever he shall be appointed.”

And then the Champion threw down his gauntlet. The gauntlet having lain some short time, the said York herald took it up, and delivered it again to the Champion.

Then advancing in the same order to the middle of the hall, the said herald made proclamation as before, and the Champion threw down his gauntlet; which, after having lain a little time, was taken up by the herald and delivered to him again.

Lastly, advancing to the foot of the steps, York herald, and those who preceded him, going to the top of the steps, made proclamation a third time, at the end whereof the Champion again cast down his gauntlet, which after some time being taken up and redelivered to him by the herald, he made a low obeisance to his Majesty. Whereupon his Majesty's Cup-bearer bringing to the King a gilt bowl of wine, with a cover, his Majesty drank to the Champion, and sent him the said bowl by the cup-bearer, accompanied with his assistants, which the Champion—having put on his gauntlet—received, and retiring a little space, drank thereof, and made his humble reverence to his Majesty; and, being accompanied as before, departed out of the hall, taking the said bowl and cover with him as his fee.

In the British Museum is a MS. purporting to be a Mandate of Henry VI. to R. Rolleston, Keeper of his Majesty's Wardrobe, to deliver to P. Dymoke, such furniture, &c., as King's Champion on the day of the Coronation, as his ancestors were accustomed to have.2

Philip de Marmion was twice married. By his first wife his territorial lordship of Tamworth passed to the representative of his eldest daughter Joane, and latterly vested in the ancient family of Freville; thereafter by descent it came to the Lords de Ferrers. In this line it is understood that whatever right there may be to the Barony by tenure it is vested in their present representative, but it is very improbable that any attempt will ever again be made to raise any claim to an honour of this description, after the decision against the late Lord Fitzharding, who, in virtue of his possession of Berkeley Castle, unsuccessfully asserted a right to sit in the House of Lords. Serious doubts have been entertained of the soundness of the decision given by that very capricious tribunal—if it can be so termed—a Committee of Privileges. To console the claimant for his want of success he was gratified by Government with a modern Barony of Fitzharding—one of the old titles of the Earls of Berkeley. This has been mentioned to shew that the claim which was brought before the House of Peers at the beginning of this century by another descendant of Philip de Marmion to the dignity of a Baron was unfounded, and could not be maintained in virtue of his descent from Joane, Lord Marmion's youngest daughter by his second marriage, whose grand-daughter, marrying Sir John Dymoke, Kt.,...

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Alice Jones Nearing (essay date 1944)

SOURCE: Nearing, Alice Jones. “Marmion's Family Background, His Life, and Works” and “Cupid and Psyche—Its Relation to the Amatory Mythological Poetry of Its Time.” In Cupid and Psyche, by Shakerly Marmion—A Critical Edition, with an Account of Marmion's Life and Works, pp. 11-34; 59-67. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1944.

[In the following essays, Nearing discusses Marmion's background and career, his status as a literary figure, and the relation of Cupid and Psyche to the tradition of amatory mythological poetry.]

CHAPTER I: MARMION'S FAMILY BACKGROUND, HIS LIFE, AND WORKS1

A. THE MARMIONS...

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Jackson I. Cope (essay date 1957)

SOURCE: Cope, Jackson I. “Shakerly Marmion and Pope's Rape of the Lock.Modern Language Notes 27, no. 4 (April 1957): 265-67.

[In the following essay, Cope suggests that a key scene in Alexander Pope's Rape of the Lock was anticipated in Marmion's Cupid and Psyche.]

The Abbe de Montfaucon de Villars' Le Comte de Gabalis (1670) provided Pope with the immediate source of Belinda's sylphs. But Pope, citing “Antient Traditions of the Rabbi's” for authority, departed from de Villars in utilizing the sylphs as Betty's better part at Belinda's toilet.1 And commentators have agreed that “Pope's originality most obviously shows...

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W. R. Gair (essay date 1973)

SOURCE: Gair, W. R. “The Politics of Scholarship: A Dramatic Comment on the Autocracy of Charles I.” In The Elizabethan Theatre III, edited by David Galloway, pp. 100-18. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1973.

[In the following essay, Gair claims that the incident involving the threatened seizure of Veterano's books in The Antiquary had a powerful effect on Marmion's audience, and he maintains that this can best be understood in terms of the history of the Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries.]

The central incident in the main plot of Shackerly Marmion's The Antiquary occurs when Veterano, the antiquarian of the title, is told that

...

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Richard Sonnenshein (essay date 1979)

SOURCE: Sonnenshein, Richard. “Critical Introduction.” In A Fine Companion by Shakerly Marmion (1633): A Critical Edition, pp. 1-68. New York: Garland Publishing, 1979.

[In the following excerpt, Sonnenshein summarizes the action of Marmion's major plays, discusses the dramatist's literary influences, and assesses his position in Caroline theater.]

THE COMEDIES: SYNOPSIS OF PLOTS

Each of Marmion's comedies reveals a notable advance in the use of plot devices and the capabilities of the theater. In just three plays he moved from the diffuse, often static, sometimes hard to follow Holland's Leaguer to the skillfully integrated...

(The entire section is 11374 words.)