- Start date: 1 September 2015
- End date: 30 September 2020
- Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council
- Primary investigator: Martin Butler
- External co-investigators: Professor Matthew Steggle (University of Bristol)
Partners and collaborators
Shakespeare's Globe; Birkbeck, University of London
The project will create the first complete critical edition of the works of John Marston (1576-1634).
Marston was one of the major playwrights of the early modern period, equal in significance to such well-known dramatists as John Webster, Thomas Middleton, or John Ford.
The author of a dozen surviving plays, including 'The Malcontent' and 'The Dutch Courtesan', two volumes of verse and two courtly entertainments, he was an original and idiosyncratic voice. He competed and collaborated with the most important writers of his time, including Shakespeare, Jonson, and Chapman, and the impact of his highly distinctive style can be seen in the turn towards a more satirical and aesthetically self-conscious mode of writing English drama after 1600.
Marston's works have never been properly edited as a body. The new edition will bring together all of Marston's poems and plays for the first time, and will scrutinize exhaustively the many early printed editions in which his works survive. It will establish an authoritative text on critical foundations, provide up-to-date and informative introductions and commentary, and endeavour to resolve the disputes over authorship which bedevil Marston's works.
The son of a lawyer and a resident of the Middle Temple, Marston belonged to the avant garde cultural world of the Inns of Court, and wrote predominantly for two sophisticated troupes of adolescent actors performing for elite audiences at London's indoor playhouses.
The project explores the background of Inns of Court society and early modern theatre in order to illuminate the context from which Marston's writing emerged and the intellectual and political concerns with which he engages.
This project will result in a four-volume print edition of Marston's works, in modern spelling, published by Oxford University Press, and a parallel old-spelling edition to be hosted on the Oxford Scholarly Editions Online website.
During the period of preparation we are mounting four public events:
- a workshop (Birkbeck University of London) on the attribution of early modern texts;
- a book-in-hand performance (University of Leeds) of Marston's early tragedy Antonio's Revenge;
- a weekend workshop with professional and amateur actors at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, London, exploring aspects of performance in Marston;
- a conference (Oxford University) presenting papers from the project and centred around a performance of The Malcontent staged by the remarkable troupe of boy actors, Edward's Boys.
Our aim is to encourage interest in Marston and the revival of his plays, and to establish a place for him in England's cultural and theatrical memory as a major figure, whose works carry the same kind of importance as those of his better known contemporaries.
There is also an edition blog which publicises aspects of our findings and encourages scholarly conversation about Marston's works.
Publications and outputs
The Complete Works of John Marston, 4 printed volumes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021)
Old- and Modern-spelling editions in Oxford Scholarly Editions Online
Complementary collection of essays.