The Malcontent

EPUB EBook by John Marston

EBook Description

The strength of this play is in the language, not the plot or charcaterisation or dramatic tension (although to be fair one should make judgements about plays which one has only read with caution: Shakespeare's comedies tend to look tame in print). The Malcontent EPUB EBook The Malcontent closely parallels Tourneur's (if it is Tourneur) Revenger's Tragedy, which itself is in someways a pastiche of Hamlet, so a pastiche of pastiche then. This play shares with Middleton's plays an uneasy and uncertain relationship between a high moral tone and bawdy language and puns. I am never sure whether the writer is enjoying the bawdiness and dishonestly adds the high moral sentiment, or on the contrary is preaching and feels obliged to add bawdy for the sake of popularity, or, a third possibility, is himself ambivalent, indulging in high jinks and in practically the same stroke of his hectic quill, condemning sin, at once condemning and revelling in the "sweet sheets, wax lights, bed- EPUBposts, cambric smocks, villainous curtains, arras pictures, oiled hinges, and all the tongue-tied lasciviousnes witnesses of great creatures' wantoness. What salvation can you expect?" Act1 Scene Viii 36-41
Well what indeed? But is all this serious? It cannot be entirely serious, noone who writes lines like "I'll fall like a sponge into water to suck up, to suck up. Howl again. I'll go to church and come to you." is altogether serious, although the comedy is so bizarre as to be ever so slightly sinister. The clown's mask can so easilö download; y slip. We are so close to evil and bad dreams and the language of bawdy can slip into terror and nightmare. It does not but it comes close enough to brush us with the touch of impedning doom: the judgement, so the writer surely belived, which awaits us all: that rebuke which cannot be gainsaid.
The play is an outpuring of the inventory of cupidity. the punning, sententiousness, invectivecursing and raging never lets up. This writer likes to wear his learning on his (I imagine) perfumed and cambric sleeve: we are invited to spend happy hours chasing up a profusion of classical and dialectical references as well as what seem to be insider jokes. It never stops. The style seems to me to be South European, of what the English sometimes call "the firey Latin temperament" and it is no surprise to learn that Marston's mother was Italian and his sources largely Italian too. This and much like it reads more like the translation of the invective of a Neopolitan housewife than anything more nearly English:
"Come down, thou ragged cur, and snarl here. I give thy dogged sullines free liberty; trot about and bespurtle whom thou pleasest." (Act1 Scene ii 10-12)All the characters seem to be very loud. Reading The Malconent I have the impression that they are shouting at one another most of the time, like neighbours in a street in Brindisi.
Thou art an arrant knave-
Who I? I have been a sergeant man-
Thou art very poor-
As Job, an alchemist or a poet-
The duke hates thee-
As Irishmen do bum-cracks-
Thou has lost his amity-
As pleasing as maids lose their virginity-
"I wonder what religion thou art of?" asks one character and I wonder too.
I read that Marston became a priest, no doubt his sermons were popular.
This pastiche of pastiches concludes with a tour de force (is this a spoiler?) it is a revenge tragedy in which nobody dies! There are no severed heads, no bodies concealed in chests or duchesss murdered or prices poisoned or hapless suitors stabbed. Nobody is led away to execution. The Machiavellan villain Mendoza is pardoned. Is this Marston's answer to Machiavelli and does Marston share Portia's words of wisodm about mercy?
The underlying theme of this play, its Leitmotiv as it were, is not revenge after all, it isrebuke. The characters never cease rebuking one another but in the most colourful language possible. We all stand rebuked for our sins and even I John Marston am fascinated by sin while I condemn it like the proverbial rabbit before the serpent. Sin fascinates even as it repels.
But the sin is not too heinous, or is it? We are not presented with genuine suffering. Is it that the world was too full of suffering beyond words, the executions, terror, disease and horror of the time, for Marstoin to do more than rebuke and make fun of fallen Man?
How poor are the repetitive four letter expletives of the ragtag and botail underclass of today when compared to the outpourings of abuse indulged in by the cacophonous protagonists of "The Malcontent".

I should like to see this performed or at least hear it performed and wonder at the rebuke meted out to all, among others Medame Maquerelle who lies in "the old Cunnycourt" for if "all is damnation, wickedness extreme and there is no faith in man" then let us all be rebuked and acknowledge that "mature discretion is the life of state"."The whore goes down with the stews and the punk comes up with the puritan." And we take this wisdom home, the last line of this strange romp of a play:
"He that knows most, knows how much he wanteth"
Even that final rebuke is not without its ambiguity. Master Marston sir: can you not be serious without making a pun and can you never make a joke without being somehow ultimately a little serious? Like this book? Read online this: I and Thou, Socialist History Journal Issue 16.

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