Philip Massinger Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

ph_0111207651-Massinger.jpg Philip Massinger Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Philip Massinger wrote a few commemorative poems, commendations of other playwrights, and dedicatory epistles in verse and prose. These have been collected by Donald Lawless in a 1968 monograph, The Poems of Philip Massinger with Critical Notes. Massinger’s reputation, however, rests firmly on his plays.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Philip Massinger’s missing plays are the stuff of legend: An eighteenth century book dealer, Joseph Warburton, bought and stacked away in a closet an undetermined number of Massinger manuscripts, which his cook mistook for scrap and used, sheet by sheet, to line pie plates and start fires. What outlived the cook is a body of competently, sometimes brilliantly, plotted plays, which are variations on three or four themes and character types.

In the past, critics such as Arthur Symons and Ronald Bayne have complained that Massinger’s works offer no new insights into the relationship between human beings and society, no existential questions about the right and wrong of a character’s course. They found his thinking conventional and his heroines smug. Later critics, such as Mark Mugglio and A. P. Hogan, attempted to rescue Massinger from such charges by arguing that he was subtly challenging the very assumptions his plays seem to support.

In fact, Massinger’s plays do make conventional assumptions about art, society, and human motives. Art teaches pleasantly; society naturally forms a hierarchy in which those of good blood, well educated, rule over those of less exalted natures. Humans act from love, greed, ambition, or simple fellowship. Working from these assumptions, Massinger dramatizes the unsuccessful attempts of citizens who wish to rise above their natural stations. He twits the younger generation for its impatience, he upholds...

(The entire section is 597 words.)


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Adler, Doris. Philip Massinger. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Adler briefly comments on the life, then analyzes the plays in historical and dramatic contexts. Promotes Massinger as a political analyst concerned with the dangers to England represented by corrupt Stuart courts, especially by such men as Robert Carr and George Villiers—and also Sir William Davenant, who was promulgating values at court that the poet could not accept.

Clark, Ira. The Moral Art of Philip Massinger. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1993. Clark examines morality and ethics in the dramatic works of Massinger. Includes bibliography and index.

Clark, Ira. Professional Playwrights: Massinger, Ford, Shirley, and Brome. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Clark analyzes and criticizes the plays of Massinger, John Ford, James Shirley, and Richard Brome, known as the Carolines. Includes bibliography and index.

Garrett, Martin, ed. Massinger: The Critical Heritage. New York: Routledge, 1991. This volume provides a critical look at the dramatic works of Massinger. Bibliography and index.

Howard, Douglas, ed. Philip Massinger: A Critical Reassessment. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Contains valuable essays by eight scholars, with an appendix by Anne Barton on “Massinger’s distinctive voice.” Topics include the collaboration with John Fletcher, charity and social order, and Massinger’s theatrical language. Plays treated in depth include The Maid of Honour, The City Madam, and A New Way to Pay Old Debts.

Sanders, Julie. Caroline Drama: The Plays of Massinger, Ford, Shirley, and Brome. Plymouth, England: Northcote House in association with the British Council, 1999. Sanders examines the works of the Carolines: Massinger, John Ford, James Shirley, and Richard Brome. Includes bibliographical references and index.