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he had continued in the state of inner barrister for some years, [he] was elected a burgess to serve in parl. 1601 ... There was no person in his time more celebrated for ingenuity than R. Martin, none more admired by Selden, serjeant Hoskins, Ben. Johnson, &c. than he; the last of which dedicated his comedy to him called The P.' Wood also says that he has seen copies of Martin's speeches in Parliament (he was elected for Barnstaple in 1601; and sat for Christchurch, 1604-1611); also of an oration delivered in the name of the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex, on the accession of James I. (Cf. Nichols' Progresses of Jas. I. 1. 113.) Martin died Oct. 31, 1618.
'He was a very handsome man, a gracefull speaker, facetious, and well-beloved. I thinke [sic] he died of a merry symposiaque. He was recorder [of London] but a moneth before his death.' Thus John Aubrey, Brief Lives, ed. A. Clark, 1898, 2. 47.
One of Martin's intimate friends was Sir James Whitelocke, a judge of the court of King's Bench under James I. and Charles I. See his Liber Famelicus, ed. Bruce, 1858, passim. Of the manner of Martin's death Sir James says that Martin found after his election as recorder of London that he was expected to pay £1500 toward compensating a knight who had vacated another office to allow of several advancements, among them Martin's. 'This money,' Whitelocke tells us (p. 63), 'was layd downe by sir Lýonell Cranfeild (cf. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1611-1618, p. 595] for mr. Martin, but it lay so heavye at mr. Martin's hart after he knewe of it, that he fell ill and heavye upon it, and toke his chamber and never came forthe untill he was caryed to buryall.' This accounting for Martin's death is doubtless more trustworthy than Aubrey's.
The 1611 edition of Coryat's Crudities (repr. L. 1776, vol. 2) contains by way of preface a letter to Sir Henry Wotton, signed ‘Richard Martin,' and dated ‘Middle Temple, May 1, 1608.'. Wotton was at that time English ambassador at Venice, and the letter recommends to him the 'bearer Mr. Thomas Coryat, of Odcombe, in Somersetshire,' who is about to visit Venice. Though this letter has a general tone of humourous over-praising of its destined bearer, it is another testimonial to Martin's kindliness. Cf. also Collier, Bibliog. Acct., 1866, 1. 234; and John Davies of Hereford, Scourge of Folly, epigram 96.
The Persons of the Play. Note the omission in this list of Luscus, Tibullus, and Aesop. After
sounding. In the Elizabethan theatre the performance was announced by flourishes of trumpets, the prologue usually entering after the third sounding. The scenes of each act went on without interruption, but between the acts music was furnished by trumpets, fiddles, viols, recorders, etc. Malone (Shakesp. 1. 2. 93-96) thinks that until after the Restoration the orchestra sat in an upper balcony. After the third sounding the play began. There was no front curtain (cf. W. J. Lawrence, in Englische Studien, 32 pp. 36-51).
Envie. In his discussion of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, Small (Stage-Quarrel, 142) remarks: “I have said my prayers, and devil Envy say amen” (ii. 3, 22) seems an allusion to Jonson's employment of Envy as prologue to the Poetaster, about June 1601.'
Fleay (Chr. 2. 189) says this expression in Troilus and Cressida refers to the end of Lodge's Mucedorus, but not necessarily to the later version.' It is, however, only in the 'later version' (ed. 1610) that Envy says 'Amen!' (Hazlitt's Dodsley 7. 259 note.) In the Induction, ed. 1598, there is the stage direction : 'Enter ENVY, his arms naked, besmeared with blood, (ibid. 203). On the same page, Envy is described as a hag. Jonson's monster may easily have been suggested by Mucedorus. Cowley seems to have had Poetaster or its source in mind when picturing Envy in Davideis, bk. I.
It should be remembered that in general envy in Jonson's time meant primarily hatred, malice, rather than envy in the modern
stage. Stage mechanism was not elaborate in 1601, but there seems to have been a trap-door, together with apparatus for raising and lowering persons or properties. In Catiline 1. I, we find: 'The Ghost of Sylla rises,' and at the close of its speech, 'Sinks.' Cf. R. Greene, Alphonsus, King of Arragon 1 : 'After you haue sounded thrise, let Venus be let downe from the top of the Stage, and when she is downe, say:' etc.
E. 1. Light, I salute thee. 'There is no reason to suppose Satan's address to the sun in the Paradise Lost (4. 32 ff.] more than a mere coincidence with these lines; but were it otherwise, it would be a fine instance what usurious interest a great genius pays in borrowing. Thus Coleridge, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, 1874, p. 266. In Men, Women, and Books (1847, 2. 12–3), Leigh Hunt over-praises this passage in Poetaster.
E. 3. What's here? Th’Arraignment? The name of the play to be presented used to be painted upon a board and placed in some prominent position upon the stage. In order that there might be full and general information, however, the prologue usually referred to the title in his speech to the audience. In this case, Envy discovers and reads the sign, which must have borne not Poetaster, but THE ARRAIGNMENT. Cf. Tucca's exclamation, 5. 3. 187–9: 'Body of JUPITER! What? will they arraigne my briske POETASTER, and his poore iourney-man, ha?' Also 5. 3. 220 ff.
The prologue to The Devil is an Ass, 1616, thus begins his speech:
The Devil is an Ass: that is, today,
The name of what you are met for, a new play. Cf. Wily Beguiled: Prol. 'How now, my honest rogue? What play shall we have here to-night?
Player. Sir, you may look upon the title.
Prol. What, Spectrum once again? Why, noble Cerberus, nothing but patch-pannel stuff, old gally-mawfnes, and cotten candle eloquence?'
After the player's exit, a juggler takes down 'Spectrum' and substitutes 'Wily Beguiled.'
E. 3. I: This, this is it. I is here a form of assent, later written ay. Of the interjection Ay, N.E.D. says: 'Appears suddenly about 1575, and is exceedingly common about 1600; origin unknown. The suggestion that it is the same Ay adv. "ever, always”, seems set aside by the fact that it was at first always written I, a spelling never found with Ay. But it may have been a dialect form of that word.
E. 14-15. These fifteene weekes. In Satiromastix, Tucca asks concerning Horace, who is supposed to be composing an epithalamium: 'Has he not writ Finis yet Jacke? what will he bee fifteene weekes about this Cockatrices egge too? has hee not cackled yet? not laide yet?' (Dekker's Dram. Works 1. 202.)
Jonson's slowness in writing plays is commented on in the Apologetical Dialogue, 180 ff.:
Pol. Yes: they say you are slow, And scarse bring forth a play a yeere. Avt. 'Tis true. But in Poetaster and Volpone (completed in five weeks: cf. prologue, which seems to allude to Poetaster times) he worked fast enough to content any one except his rivals.
As for Dekker, the Demetrius of Poetaster, his work, the Seven Deadly Sins, 1606 4to, bears on the title page: Opus septem dierum. This occupies 81 pages of Grosart's reprint. Ernest Rhys, Thomas Dekker, 1894, Memoir Xv-xvi, gives a statement of Dekker's fecundity, with particular reference to the year 1599.
E. 20. Then. The conjunction than is uniformly written then in the 1616 folio version of Poetaster; also in quarto 1602, with the single exception that the then of 3. 4. 269 is in quarto than. In folio 1640, and subsequent editions, than is the regular form.
E. 27–8. The Scene is, ha! Rome? The place of action, as well as the title, of a play was often made known to the audience by a sign placed upon the stage or above it. Cf. Sidney, Defense of Poesy, ed. Cook, 36. In the case of Poetaster, one sign bore the name of the play (cf. E. 3), while another, in a different place, was marked 'THE SCENE, ROME.' It was usual for the prologue or a player to call attention to the scene of the play, whether painted on a sign or not. Cf. Sidney's Defense 48, also the chorus to each act in Henry V.
As for stage-setting to help the audience to realize the scene as 'Thebes' or 'Rome', there was little of it in Jonson's day, except in performances at Court: cf. the Defense 48. We hear, however, of the stage as hung with curtains or 'painted cloth.' Cf. C. Revels, Induction: 'Slid, the boy takes me for a piece of perspective, I hold my life, or some silk curtain, come to hang the stage here! Sir crack, I am none of your fresh pictures, that use to beautify the decayed dead arras in a public theatre.' It seems clear that Shakespeare's stage had no movable scenery, and the first mention of a painted back-scene is said to date 1603. The private masques, however, had painted scenery and rich stage properties much earlier than the playhouses open to the public. See Historia Histrionica, 1699, pp. 5, 10 ff.
In the 1673 edition of Davenant's works, the Siege of Rhodes is preceded by a description of the stage, its scenery and properties, from which we quote: 'The Ornament which encompass’d the Scene, consisted of several Columns, of gross Rustick work; which bore up a large Freese. In the middle of the Freese was a Compartiment, wherein was written RHODES.' The following scenes are elaborately described.
In the Appendix to his edition of Henslowe's Diary (1591-1609), Collier prints quotations purporting to have been made by Malone from Henslowe's MSS., long in his hands. (Cf. Malone, Shaksp. 3.) We select as follows from 'The Enventory taken of all the properties for my Lord Admeralles men, the 10 of Marche 1598' (Collier 273-4):
'Item, j rocke, j cage, j tombe, j Hell mought.
apelles; Tantelouse tre; jx eyorn targates.' E. 28. Cracke ey-strings. The muscles and nerves of the eyes were supposed to break or crack upon the stroke of death or of blindness. Cf. Cymbeline 1. 3. 17; Chaucer, Man of Lawe's Tale 669.
E. 30. I am preuented. 'I am forestalled, anticipated.' The idea is that Jonson's enemies and detractors could more easily have vented their spleen had the scene of Poetaster been London and the action more obviously concerned with its social and political interests. However, Jonson is soon betrayed into lifting the mask of antiquity and speaking in his own unmistakable accents enough censure of poetasters, tricky lawyers and pretended soldiers to give Envy matter in plenty for both false and true charges.
E. 35. Are there no players here? no poet-apes? 'Are there no players from rival companies, no would-be poets, jealous of the author, here in the audience?' Cf. Epigram 56, On Poet-Ape.
E. 57. This calme troupe. This unmoved audience. Cf. Every Man Out, Ind., Asper loq.; Marston, I Ant. and Mell., Prol. 1-4.
PROLOGVE. The prologue usually appeared in a black velvet cloak; cf. the Induction to C. Revels, where the children contend for the right to speak the prologue, and the first cries: 'I plead possession of the cloak. A wreath of bays was also worn on some occasions, as is indicated in the prologue of Beaumont and Fletcher's Woman Hater, 1607: 'Gentlemen, inductions are out of date, and a Prologue in verse is as stale as a black velvet cloak and a bay garland.' In Poetaster, Jonson gives us an armed prologue, symbolical of the attitude of defense forced upon him by his enemies. But cf. note on P. 6.
P. 6. An armed Prologue. Whalley and Gifford regard the following passage in Shakespeare's Tro. and Cres. as a fling at Jonson:
Now expectation, tickling skittish spirits,
In like conditions as our argument. Fleay also (Chr. I. 366) has noted this passage as a parody on Poetaster. And Small (Stage-Quarrel 142) takes it as indicating that Tro. and Cres. (4to 1609) must have been written soon after the appearance of Poetaster, which was about midsummer 1601. But Sidney Lee believes that Shakespeare here distinctly disclaims all concern in the stage quarrel (Life of Shakespeare, 1899, pp. 228-9 note). Cf. our Introduction, under VIRGIL. Moreover, the fact (mentioned by Ward, Eng. Dram. Lit. I. 509 note) that Jonson himself evidently had in mind here the armed epilogue of Marston's Ant. and Mell. 1599, must make us cautious about our conclusions :
'Andrugio. Gentlemen, though I remain in the previous scene he had entered his enemy's court clad in armor) an armed Epilogue, I stand not as a peremptory challenger of desert, either for him that composed the Comedy, or for us that acted it; but a most submissive suppliant for both.'
On this Bullen notes (Marston's Works 1. 93): 'It was probably in derision of Marston's "armed Epilogue” that Ben Jonson heralded The Poetaster with an armed Prologue.'