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Marston, John

John Marston, 1576–1634, English satirist and dramatist, b. Oxfordshire, grad. Oxford, 1594. In accordance with his father's wishes he studied law at Middle Temple, but his interests soon turned to literature. His first published works, a licentious, satiric love poem entitled The Metamorphosis of Pigmalion's Image and The Scourge of Villanie, a volume of coarse verse satires, appeared in 1598. After both these works were burned in 1599 by order of the archbishop of Canterbury, Marston began writing for the stage. His most notable plays are the love story Antonio and Mellida (1599); its sequel, the revenge tragedy Antonio's Revenge (1599); his masterpiece, The Malcontent (1604), a tragicomedy that derides aristocratic behavior; and The Dutch Courtezan (1605), a bitterly anti-female comedy. Marston was involved in the war of the theaters against Ben Jonson from 1599 to 1601, while both playwrights were writing for rival companies of child actors. Later, the two men became friends and collaborated with George Chapman in writing Eastward Ho! (1605). Marston ended his literary career c.1607, and two years later he took holy orders.

See his plays ed. by H. H. Wood (3 vol., 1934–39); his poems ed. by A. Davenport (1961); study by P. J. Finckelpearl (1969).

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