Plays by John Marston

The Dutch Courtesan

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The eponymous Dutch courtesan Franceschina, passionate and vengeful, is at the centre of Marston’s volatile morally complex play about irrepressible lust.

The young gentleman Freevill has been intimately involved with Franceschina, but as his marriage to the respectable Beatrice, the daughter of Sir Hubert Subboys, approaches, he resolves to cast the courtesan aside. Goaded into visiting the same courtesan by Freevill’s taunts about his sexual abstinence, the puritanical Malheureux finds himself irresistibly drawn to the enchanting prostitute, despite the promptings of his conscience.

As the two young men scheme to help Malheureux sleep with Franceschina, the courtesan herself plots her revenge upon Freevill, whom she loved sincerely (to the frustration of Mary Faugh, her bawd). Though the play reaches a neatly comic conclusion, there is no room in it for the fiery, controversial Franceschina.

Marston mixes rhetorical debate and furious passion to create a morally turbulent discussion of human desire.

This text is based on the 1605 Quarto.

Eastward Ho!

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A collaboration between Jonson, Chapman and Marston, Eastward Ho! is a masterpiece of city comedy. Unique among the ‘coterie’ city comedies written for boy players, Eastward Ho! gives all classes a full satiric treatment simultaneously didactic, ironic, and triumphantly comic.

Touchstone is an upright London citizen, a goldsmith. He has one modest and one ambitious daughter, and one righteous and one disreputable apprentice. He marries his respectable daughter to his respectable apprentice, but his wilful daughter is determined to become a lady and marries herself off to a lord of doubtful finances, while his other mercurial apprentice casts aside his indentures in order to climb the social ladder. A series of chaotic accidents ensures that virtue is rewarded, and ruthlessness comes to grief – receiving a drenching in the muddy Thames.

Eastward Ho! was performed at the Blackfriars playhouse in 1605. The play may well have been provoked by Dekker and Webster’s Westward Ho!, produced by Paul’s Boys in 1604; Eastward Ho! parodies the earlier play’s form.

John Marston (c. 1575-1634) was an English playwright who wrote thirteen plays between 1599 and 1609, his two finest being the tragicomedy The Malcontent (1604) and the comedy The Dutch Courtesan (1605). He is noted for his violent imagery and his preoccupation with mankind's failure to uphold Christian virtues.

Other plays include the tragedies Antonio's Revenge and Antonio and Mellida (both 1599) and the comedy What You Will (1601). At the turn of the century Marston became involved in the so-called war of the theatres, a prolonged feud with his rival Ben Jonson. Jonson repeatedly satirized him in such plays as Every Man Out of His Humour (1599) and The Poetaster (1601), while Marston replied in Satiromastix (with Thomas Dekker; 1601). Their squabble ended in time for the two to collaborate with George Chapman on the ill-fated Eastward Ho! (1605), which resulted in all three authors being briefly imprisoned.

Marston was later imprisoned for offending James I with his tragedy The Insatiate Countess (1610). After his release he took holy orders and wrote no more plays.