John Marston Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

John Marston, the son of a prominent and prosperous lawyer, was christened on October 7, 1576. The exact date and place of his birth are unknown, although he surely passed his youth in Coventry, where his father, a distinguished member of the Middle Temple, was town steward from 1588 until his death in 1599. Little is known of Marston’s early life until he matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1592. After completing his bachelor of arts degree in 1594, he resided in London at the Middle Temple, sharing his father’s chambers and beginning to study law. That Marston would never practice law was apparent by 1599, when his father cautioned him “to foregoe his delighte in playes, vayne studdyes, and fooleryes.” A resigned yet plaintive note creeps into the final version of his father’s will, when, leaving his law books to his son, the dying man recalls his hope “that my sonne would have proffetted in the studdye of the lawe wherein I bestowed my uttermost indevor but man proposeth and God disposeth.” Marston nevertheless continued to live in the Middle Temple, a not uncommon practice at a time when fewer than 15 percent of the residents actually embraced law as a profession. No better place for witty companionship, lively debate, and satiric mockery could have been found; the influence of Middle Temple life was to shape Marston’s entire literary output.

That output, as well as its early cessation, was perhaps regulated by the religious...

(The entire section is 553 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Marston, born in Oxfordshire and baptized there on October 7, 1576, was the son of an English lawyer and his Italian wife. He attended Brasenose College, Oxford, from February 4, 1592, to February 6, 1594, when he received his B.A. degree. He entered the Middle Temple to study law and remained there until 1608, but his father’s statement of disappointment indicates that the young man did not complete his legal training.

Marston’s first known works are books of Ovidian eroticism and poetic satire, The Metamorphosis of Pigmalion’s Image and The Scourge of Villanie. In them the young poet lashes himself into somewhat conventional anger against the abuses of the times. In September, 1599, theater manager Philip Henslowe recorded payment to “Mr. Maxton the new poete.” Making allowance for Henslowe’s customary spelling difficulties, one may assume the new poet is Marston. Very soon Marston turned from Henslowe’s company to Paul’s Boys, possibly revising for them Histriomastix (c. 1599) and writing the two Antonio plays and Jack Drum’s Entertainment. Because of uncertainty in dating the plays, it is not clear whether Antonio’s Revenge influenced Hamlet or was influenced by it (either way, both plays owed much to Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy of c. 1585-1589).

Perhaps Marston is best remembered for his part in the so-called War of the Theaters, in which Ben Jonson...

(The entire section is 571 words.)