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4'~ LEITERS IN CANADA 1979 comedy to be challenged by Jonson's 'judicious' comedy. A paragraph or two on this question would have been welcome. Again, the major Renaissance Lucianist, Rabelais, is mentioned, but only in passing: since he is, like Jonson, much rougher and more boisterous than most of the others, and since Jonson undoubtedly carne to know his work, Ihope that Duncan will be persuaded to write a supplementary article on this subject . (WILLIAM BLISSEn) R.W. Ingram. John Marston Twayne Publishers. 180. $9.95 To call a piece of scholarship 'workmanlike' is usually to damn it with faint praise. Quite the opposite is the case with this gratifyingly workmanlike book. Though the Twayne English Authors series, to which John Marston belongs, is aimed largely at an undergraduate readership, Professor Ingram's level-headed interpretations of writings which have tempted many others into censorious hyperbole should be regarded as a welcome digestif for scholars at any level who are suffering from a surfeit of interpretive gastronomy. After centuries of enduring the oblivion to which he somewhat disingenuously dedicated himself, Marston has recently received several full-length studies, including three - by J.5. Colley (1974), Michael Scott (1978), and E.J. Jensen (1979) - which were probably unavailable to Ingram as he wrote. Ingram's own book has the advantage of his good-humoured intelligence, his lack of a critical axe to grind, and his more complete coverage of the reuvre (his is the only one to deal at length with the verse satires). Marston scholars tend to divide into two camps, an older one which sees the writer primarily as a satirist and a bitter, even pathological moralist (Samuel Schoenbaum's 'The Precarious Balance of John Marston: PMLA, 1952, epitomizes this view) and a newer one that proposes a Marston who is indeed a moralist but one developing in the direction of leniency through a gradually increasing acceptance of human weakness. Ingram's views are generally those of the second camp. In his chapters on the early Certaine Satyres and The Scourge of Villanie, for instance, he points out that the savage voice we hear belongs to a persona that carne with the territory. Marston's style 'is as yet uncontrolled, but it is urgent with life.' At this stage 'he is neither a failure nor a resounding success but "a very promising writer who should be watched'" (p 37). A similarsweet reasonableness is brought to bear upon the earliest plays, which are shown to be useful apprentice work. But even Jack Drum's Entertainment, in which the playwright 'is so carried away by what he is mocking that he abjures the mockery' (p 66), demonstrates Marston's peculiar kind of self-consciousness. Not only does it lead him to erase his own footsteps as he goes along; it makes him create self-conscious characters, even self-conscious plays. Particularly useful on this subject is Ingram's handling of the two Antonio plays, especially in the subchapter titled 'Marston and the Idea of the Theatre.' While Ingram's stiletto disposes of Reginald Foakes's influential but overstated case for the supposed burlesque effects of boy actors as effectively as does E.j. jensen's broadsword, he accounts for the existence of real contradictions in these plays by arguing that Marston is aiming at an inclusive view of life. 'Andrugio, the lovers, and Balurdo all belong to different worlds - to none of which the audience is expected to give full allegiance - but Marston seeks his understanding of the world in their coexistence and opposition' (p 73). Marston explores the paradox that 'the absurd can become the serious and true', and that in the theatre the axiom that 'tragic involvement and sardonic detachment are immiscible ... can be at times theatrically false' (pp 85-8). Without stretching the observation to the lengths that Scott does, Ingram thus identifies Marston's modernity and sees aesthetic virtue where others have seen vice. Similarly, in his study of The Malcontent he shows how what might at first seem a dramaturgical lapse is actually part of what Marston is trying to say. 'Throughout the play, a discrepancy appears between what is planned and what happens .. . The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 418-420
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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