§1 The Dutch Courtesan encompasses a wide range of styles and registers. This is a play whose supreme linguistic artefact is the dizzying, street-wise, fart-obsessed patois of Cocledemoy – a micro-language which repurposes scraps of Latin, bogus Greek, a dangerously satiric Scots accent, alongside seemingly meaningless cant phrases (‘Hang toasts!’ (I.ii.25, & passim)), terminology from falconry, and pornographic songs. The script also finds room for: mock legal orations in defence of bawds and prostitution; Franceschina’s absurd, murderous, unconvincing Dutch; Crispinella’s paraphrased sampler of idioms and ideas from Florio’s Montaigne; the utterly conventionalized unconvincing Petrarchan sentiments of the lovers; and the equally unconvincing moralizing and sententious blank verse, which is at times the plain stylistic counterpoint to Cocledemoy’s colourful gallimaufry. As Freevill observes in a rare moment of stylistic clarity: ‘Tis not in fashion to call things by their right names’, a good warning to students and performers of the play alike (I.ii.130-31). Indeed, this range of styles and idiolects suggests something of the acting skills of the Children of Her Majesty’s Revels, who first performed the play at Blackfriars in the early seventeenth century, as well as the challenges it poses to revivals. In this essay, I want to think again about the styles of The Dutch Courtesan, particularly in relation to the contemporaneous modes of satire and epigram. Marston was never a writer who courted conventional models of taste, yet at the same time, in the act of stylistic transgression, he necessarily betrays both his own earlier work as a verse satirist and his informed reading of the off-colour epigrams of his fellow Inns of Court alumni, in particular Sir John Davies (an enemy, repeatedly mocked in Marston’s satires) and Everard Guilpin (a close friend and relative by marriage). Traditional criticism has been neither kind to, nor interested in, a discourse which revels in fart gags and anecdotes about prostitutes, yet there are necessary contexts for The Dutch Courtesan which nourish and locate its own distinctive idiom.
§2 Marston’s style has been commented on – often adversely – from the publication of his verse satires in the late 1590s onwards. Style is an unavoidable, obtrusive facet of reading these poems. As Colin Burrow observes, the occasionally ludicrous hyperbole of Certaine Satyres and The Scourge of Villanie underlines
the main rule of Elizabethan satire: that rage has its own clotted, implosive style. Late Elizabethan satire was angry, anxious about its status as literature, aggressively innovative in its language, and insistently topical in its subject matter.
Such a recipe is highly suggestive of drama as well as poetry. The connections between texts like The Scourge of Villanie and The Dutch Courtesan can be demonstrated by comparing passages such as the satirist’s habitual resolve to molest his subjects with Cocledemoy’s determination to persecute Mulligrub. The Scourge of Villanie IX, ‘Here’s a toy to mocke an Ape indeede’, begins with a characteristically self-conscious warning about the approach of Marston’s satire:
Grim-fac’d Reproofe, sparkle with threatning eye
Bend thy sower browes in my tart poesie.
Auant yee curres, houle in some cloudie mist,
Quake to behold a sharp-fang’d Satyrist.
O how on tiptoes proudly mounts my Muse,
Stalking a loftier gate then Satyres vse.
Me thinkes some sacred rage warmes all my vaines,
Making my spright mount vp to higher straines
Then wel beseemes a rough-tongu’d Satyres part,
But Art curbs Nature, Nature guildeth Art.
§3 This passage substantiates Burrow’s characterization: Marston’s style is ‘implosive’ as the bile of the opening four lines temporarily destabilizes the satirist’s confidence in his own mode. Metre teeters as Marston twists and tortures the iambic line to produce splenetic spondaic syllable crashes, such as ‘Reproofe, sparkle’ and ‘curres, houle’. As Alvin Kernan has showed, the verse satire of the late 1590s deploys a persona of ‘a rough-tongu’d Satyr’ based on a misunderstanding of the word’s etymology. Marston’s version of this figure is usually identified with the ‘W. Kinsayder’ who signs ‘To those that seeme iudiciall perusers’ in The Scourge of Villanie, and whom Joseph Hall apparently mocked in his epigram against Marston. The device of a satiric persona enabled Hall, Marston, Guilpin and William Rankins to adumbrate an idea of satire closely dependent on the mythological satyrs, poised uneasily between the human and the half-human, and thus empowered to advance a critical commentary on contemporary mores; as Rankins rather feebly puts it ‘My shaggy Satyres doe forsake the woods […] To view the manner of this humane strife’. In contrast with Rankins, Marston’s use of poetic language is boldly innovative. This ‘tart poesie’ is a series of threats, taunts and attacks to its readers and subjects; though a line like ‘Quake to behold a sharp-fang’d Satyrist’ loses some of its much bruited bite after frequent repetition in both Certaine Satyres and The Scourge, nevertheless, it remains sharply individual compared with the conventional Spenserian idiom used by Rankins, who at a similar moment of self-consciousness remarks in still mellifluous pentameters, ‘I leaue my hollow vast deserted den,/ To tell them the derision of their kinde’.
§4 This individuality is even more marked in passages which disgusted older critics. The Scourge III, ‘Redde, age, quae deinceps risisti’ delivers on the promise of its title (‘come, tell us what you laughed at next?’) through a series of sexual perversions, where Kinsayder’s outrage leads to a catalogue of homoerotic and masturbatory practices. In the process of assembling this collection, Marston stockpiles rhetorical questions: ‘Faith, what cares he for faire Cynedian boyes?’;‘Shall Lucea scorne her husbands luke-warme bed?’; ‘Shall I with shaddowes fight? taske bitterly/ Romes filth? scraping base channel rogarie?’ This is stylistically additive writing which mirrors its compulsive, addictive subject matter; for Kinsayder, the revelation of ‘Romes filth’ is necessary, while for the reader it is at once titillating, obscure, and a bracing excursion through the ‘base channel[s]’ of London life.
§5 Although Cocledemoy is not a dramatized satirist like Malevole in The Malcontent, there are moments at which his inventive execrations echo this ‘rough-tongu’d’ voice. In this soliloquy, he responds to Mulligrub’s fantasy of torturing and executing him (III.ii.8-14):
I’ll gargalize my throat with this vintner, and when I have done with him, spit him out. I’ll shark. Conscience does not repine. Were I to bite an honest gentleman, a poor grogaran poet, or a penurious parson, that had but ten pigs’ tails in a twelvemonth, and for want of learning had but one good stool in a fortnight, I were damn’d beyond the works of supererogation! But to wring the withers of my gouty, barm’d spigot-frigging jumbler of elements, Mulligrub, I hold it as lawful as sheep-shearing, taking eggs from hens, caudles from asses, or butter’d shrimps from horses (III.ii.39-51)
Passages like this help to explain why Cocledemoy is such a compelling dramatic presence. His idiom is robustly shitty – immediately before this passage, he comes up with the wonderfully alliterative ‘Turd on a tile-stone!’ (III.i.37-38) – yet peppered with trendy or recherché bits of vocabulary which, as per Freevill’s warning, perversely yet elegantly avoid calling things by their right names. These lexical choices can help to clarify the script’s satiric subtexts. To be ‘damn’d beyond the works of supererogation’ takes in both the intricacies of sixteenth-century theology (specifically the Catholic view that the good deeds of the pious could be transferred to the benefits of others) and the literary politics of the early 1590s. In Pierces Supererogation (1593), Gabriel Harvey continued his quarrel with Thomas Nashe; as Charles Nicholl explains, in this context ‘supererogation’ probably means Harvey’s sense that Nashe had been ‘over-zealous and hyper-active’ in his attack on Harvey in Strange Newes (1592). Pierces Supererogation was a text like Marston’s satires which had long since been suppressed by the Bishops’ Ban of June 1599. ‘Supererogation’ is both pretentious and allusive; in dramatic context, it conveys something like ‘were I to persecute somebody poor, I would deserve to be damned even more than I am already for the various misdemeanours which I’ve done’. The allusion glances subversively at the policing of literature, whether in print or on the stage, to underline Cocledemoy’s vigorous, amoral comedic action, and the inability of the more outwardly orthodox Mulligrub to keep pace with him. Cocledemoy may be damned, but he hasn’t been stopped: overdoing it, we might say, is the leitmotif of his role and the distinctive language Marston gives him.
§6 As a fashionable piece of lexis, ‘supererogation’ is not alone in this speech. ‘Penurious’ is a vogueish Latinism, used by Spenser in The Faerie Queene, which the Oxford English Dictionary first records in 1590, meaning little more than ‘poor’. ‘Grogaran’, or ‘grogram’, a term for a coarse cloth made of silk, mohair and wool, is another word of the moment, first recorded in the 1560s, but more importantly for Marston, it had been used by Donne in his fourth satire as the boorish interlocutor molests the innocent speaker about courtly chic: ‘Your only wearing is your Grogaram’. This is the Oxford English Dictionary’s first recorded usage of ‘gargalize’, a term which exemplifies Cocledemoy’s verbal mannerisms. Familiar terms are warped, or even sharked (itself another 1590s idiom, meaning to victimize or swindle) into a vivid street demotic which is both Cocledemoy’s calling-card and a hodgepodge of allusions and half-remembered quotations. And yet, though Cocledemoy is never less than pretentious – the opposite of a plain-speaker – as this extract demonstrates, his speech is memorably funny, both in its excremental clamour, its vivid speech rhythms, and its surreal, carnivalesque attacks on Mulligrub. The constipated parson ‘that had but ten pigs’ tails in a twelvemonth’ provides a surprisingly compact image of poverty to counterpoint the ‘gouty’, overfed Mulligrub.
§7 This perhaps suggests the sort of continuity between the language of the plays and that of the satires which has been a critical mainstay since at least Kernan’s work. But I want to emphasise the discrepancies between these texts as well as their similarities. Most are obvious enough, yet they are worth dwelling over. Though some of the satires deploy the classical device of an interlocutor, the dominant voice in the satires is the raging persona we hear at the beginning of The Scourge of Villanie IX. Although this voice occasionally problematises its authority and agency, this is necessarily different from the dialogic structure of The Dutch Courtesan, where Cocledemoy’s voice remains one among many, while his role is not one which the audience can take at face value. As Freevill stresses in the first scene, he is an amoral rogue: ‘that man of much money, some wit, but less honesty, cogging Cocledemoy’ (I.i.16-18). This is connected with a deeper dissimilarity. Where the satires can come close to articulating a universal misanthropy or cynicism – ‘the soules of swine/ Doe liue in men’ – Cocledemoy has no more grandiose aim than the repeated humiliation of Mulligrub. In this respect, Cocledemoy has something of the prose energy of Nashe’s repeated attacks on Harvey: in both cases, satiric tools are used to expose a particular idiot rather than idiocy more generally. To be sure, much of the comic energy of Cocledemoy’s ‘sharking’ comes from the exposure of Mulligrub’s dishonest practices and religious hypocrisy, yet the scope of this work is significantly narrower than the more generalized attacks on a corrupt society characteristic of the satires. For all his snatches of learning and distinctive rhetorical character, Cocledemoy is not the self-conscious, tormented and contradictory figure who dominates the poems.
§8 Similarly, the formal differences between the satires and The Dutch Courtesan are significant. Where Cocledemoy is an instinctive prose speaker, the satires remain tied, albeit uneasily, to the devices of metre and rhyme. ‘Ad Rithmum’ in The Scourge concedes the stylistic tensions within the poems: though Marston wants ‘riming numbers’ to add ‘a pleasing close, with your deceit/ Inticing eares’, like a good if temperamental humanist, he will not have formal compliance with rhyme dictate his meaning: ‘my libertie/ Scornes riming lawes’. Heroic couplets are perhaps not the best form in which to display your imaginative ‘libertie’. Indeed, the irony for Marston’s readers and audiences is that although the satires sometimes transgress metrical and rhyming orthodoxy, they are much more stylistically homogeneous than the more quicksilver styles of The Dutch Courtesan. As I’ve suggested, the play displays a beguiling range of styles, from the formal to the informal, from the decorous to the scatological, which have only infrequently been discussed by commentators. Thus although The Dutch Courtesan like Marston’s other plays has commonalities with his satires, there is no easy or causal connection between the styles of the one and the styles of the other. My suggestion is that previous scholarship has tended to overlook the way the play interacts stylistically with the tonalities, humour and locations of contemporaneous epigrams. To clarify this claim requires some rethinking of the relationships between those genres in the late 1590s, as well as renewed attention to the text of The Dutch Courtesan.
§9 Consider the allusive, bawdy dialogue, usually in prose, which is at the heart of The Dutch Courtesan. This extract comes from II.i, immediately after Franceschina has sung and noticed that Malheureux is distracted:
Franceschina: Your friend is very heavy. Ick sall ne’er like such sad company.
Freevill: No, thou delightest only in light company.
Franceschina: By mine trot, he been very sad. – Vat ail you, sir?
Malheureux: A toothache, lady, a paltry rheum.
Franceschina: De diet is very goot for de rheum.
Freevill: How far off dwells the house-surgeon, Mary Faugh?
Mary Faugh: You are a profane fellow, i’faith. I little thought to hear such ungodly terms come from your lips. (II.ii.77-90).
Marston’s central joke with Mary Faugh is the notion of a religious bawd, and moreover one who is an adherent of the Familist sect. Mary has already reproved Cocledemoy for being ‘the foulest-mouthed, profane, railing brother’ (I.ii.18-19), this exchange develops the joke by juxtaposing Freevill’s double entendres with Mary’s outrage. The humour of the passage lies in Mary’s spasmodic and tolerant alertness to profanity: she expresses no reaction to Freevill’s more perfunctory play on lightness, but reacts as soon as Freevill implies directly to her that Malheureux might have the pox (‘diet’ can imply he is taking treatment for that ailment) and would need the attentions of the brothel’s ‘house-surgeon’. Mary is a creature of linguistic double standards: she is at once a vigilant censor of ‘ungodly terms’ and a bawd – ‘my blue-toothed patroness of natural wickedness’ as Cocledemoy calls her, and whose name is a characteristic Elizabethan expression of disgust (I.ii.4-5). As in her earlier dialogue with Cocledemoy, there is a profound playful pretence in the outrage she expresses at Freevill: she may have ‘little thought to hear’ such terms from him, yet she has described him earlier in the scene as (accurately enough from her perspective) ‘a fool, an unthrift, a true whoremaster […] a constant drab-keeper’ (II.ii.47-48). This particular exchange, where double entendre and naming emphasise the discrepancies between affectation and reality, has stylistic analogues in the idiom of the epigrams of the 1590s.
§10 Epigram was clearly on Marston’s mind during the writing of both The Malcontent and The Dutch Courtesan. In V.v of the former, Aurelia approvingly quotes a moralizing couplet from Thomas Bastard’s Chrestoleros (1598). The Dutch Courtesan has two quotations from Martial, one of which was triggered by reading Florio’s Montaigne: in II.i, Freevill quotes ‘Absentem marmoreamque putes’ (‘you’d think she wasn’t there or made of marble’) from one of Martial’s sexually explicit epigrams, a tag which Marston appropriates directly from Montaigne (II.i.152). More independently, Marston adopts a line from Martial as the play’s epigraph. In the margin of the first scene of the 1605 quarto, just below the title, is the italicised quotation: ‘Turpe est difficiles habere nugas’, or ‘It’s demeaning to make difficulties out of trifles’. This epigram is a poetic advertisement, which underlines the qualities of the kind of poetry in which Martial specialised: rather than catering for the crowd, he writes for ‘uncommon ears’. As Wine argues, by adopting Martial, Marston suggests that he too appeals ‘to a very select and understanding audience – the spectators of comedy who laugh with the author in exposing the fools who threaten the comic world’. Marston was then widely read in both classical and contemporary epigrams during the period when he was working on The Dutch Courtesan. To what extent were the stylistic tonalities of epigram influential on the play itself?
§11 Here I suggest it’s worth distinguishing between the style and language of epigram and that of verse satire. This is not a distinction which critics have endorsed; Kernan’s judgement has generally been followed by other scholars: ‘the only difference between satires and epigrams which the Elizabethans recognized was that of length. An epigram was for them simply a short satire’. More suggestive is McCabe’s brief characterization of epigram as verse satire’s ‘sister genre’, since sibling relationships necessarily entail differentiation and friction. This notion of closely related genres is supported by Guilpin’s programmatic ‘Satyr Preludium’. While Guilpin is clear that both genres have a disciplinary function as ‘Antidotes to pestilential sinnes’, the poem suggests stylistic differentiation between the two forms:
Is popish displing, rebel flesh to tame:
A plaine dealing lad, that is not afraid
To speake the truth, but calls a iade, a iade.
As usual, Guilpin is close to Marston: ‘popish displing’ echoes a phrase from the equally programmatic ‘The Authour in prayse of his precedent Poem’, a text which bridges between The Metamorphosis of Pigmalions Image and Certaine Satyres in Marston’s first volume, just as ‘Satyr Preludium’ connects the epigrams and satires of Skialetheia. Marston claims to ‘vse Popelings discipline’ on himself to avoid ‘the whyps of Epigramatists’ – for both writers, the implication is that epigram administers a form of mild self-correction analogous to the Catholic practice of mortification of the flesh. Guilpin extends this by emphasising the plain-dealing, truth-telling function of the epigram. When he turns to satire, he stresses its elevated tone and its more violent stylistics:
the Satyre hath a nobler vaine,
He’s the Strappado, rack, and some such paine
To base lewd vice; the Epigram’s Bridewell,
Some whipping cheere: but this is follies hell.
To a modern reader, Guilpin’s imagery is uncomfortably sadistic: satire constitutes a torture chamber where the victim is subjected to the extreme violence of the strappado and the rack, punishments particularly designed to elicit confessions from the unfortunates who were subjected to them. Epigram in contrast is compared with the notorious Bridewell prison, and the whipping which whores received there as punishment. Though these are not huge distinctions, they do suggest that each mode was seen as having distinctive styles of attack. If the ‘nobler’ satire is a ‘hell’ of moral torture, epigram avoids these extremes; the distinction is later encapsulated by the definition of satire as ‘the Tamberlaine of vice,/The three square Tyborne of impieities’, in which Guilpin conflates Tamburlaine as ‘the scourge of God’ with the triangular structure used for public executions. If satire is an autocrat who will use the ultimate sanctions, epigram goes no further than corporal punishment. There are echoes of this reformatory cruelty in the plot of The Dutch Courtesan, as Malheureux and Mulligrub are brought to the steps of the gallows, but are saved from execution through the more edifying humiliations designed for them by Freevill and Cocledemoy.
§12 This sense of ‘whipping cheere’ connects – again, uneasily for the modern reader – with Guilpin’s defences of the levity and sexual license of the epigram:
Excuse me (Reader) though I now and than,
In some light lines doe show my selfe a man,
Nor be so sowre, some wanton words to blame,
They are the language of an Epigram.
This emphasis on a ‘wanton’ language is remote from the rhetorical torture chamber of satire, and raises the fact that writers like Marston and Guilpin are seldom convincing or consistent moralists. One implication of this text might be that while ‘wanton words’ are legitimate for male writers, the prostitutes punished in Bridewell receive no such indulgence; this is a dynamic replicated in The Dutch Courtesan as Freevill and Cocledemoy’s words and actions escape punishment while Franceschina is led off ‘To the extremest whip and goal’ (V.iii.61). Guilpin is following Martial in this defence of the language of epigram, and this sense of epigram’s particular license has parallels in other epigram collections.
§13 Guilpin was not an original writer or critic (though ‘Satire VI’ is a useful guide to the vagaries of literary taste in the late 1590s), but his sense of the stylistic differences between satire and epigram is supported by George Puttenham’s The Art of English Poesie (1589). Puttenham’s connection between satire and satyrs has been widely cited, but his remarks on epigram are less familiar. Like Guilpin, Puttenham suggests that epigram is related to, yet distinct from, satire:
There was yet another kind of Poet, who intended to taxe the common abuses and vice of the people in rough and bitter speaches, and their inuectives were called Satyres, and themseluves Satyricques […] Others of a more fine and plesant head were giuen wholly to taunting at vndecent things, and in short poemes vttered pretie merry conceits, and these men were called Epigrammatistes.
This idea is further developed in a later chapter: epigrams are a form in which ‘euery mery conceited man might, without any long studie or tedious ambage, make his frend sport, and anger his foe, and giue a prettie nip, or shew a sharpe conceit in few verses’. Once again, epigram is clearly conceived of as a relative of satire, but with some differences in terms of length, tone (note the repetition of ‘pretie’ and ‘conceits’ in both passages), and a license to deal with ‘vndecent things’.
§14 This helps to clarify how Elizabethan understanding of the differences between these two closely related genres worked. As The Scourge of Villanie demonstrates, verse satire is frequently ‘vndecent’, yet the tone of these texts remains broadly moralistic. And while Marston may not have advanced a coherent moral viewpoint, the impulse to reprove is a constant in his satires as it is for other satirists. This is partly what accounts for the sense of satire as a ‘raging’ genre, but Elizabethan epigrams seldom rail; as Puttenham suggests, their tone is much more often that of ‘a prettie nip’ than of ‘follies hell’. In following Martial, writers like Davies are at pains to avoid explicit moralization, preferring to let poetic detail do the work, or ironic juxtaposition. Indeed, Elizabethan epigram of the 1590s is frequently a mode of urbane irony and knowing comedy. Consider the following two texts: both occupy the same milieu as The Dutch Courtesan, andare concerned with prostitution. The first is from Satyre I of Certaine Satyres, and follows the braggart Tubrio, allegedly to sea:
He’s gone, he’s shipt, his resolution
Pricks him (by heauen) to this action.
The poxe it doth: not long since I did view
The man betake him to a common stew.
And there (I wis) like no quaint stomack’t man
Eates vp his armes. And warres munition
His wauing plume, falls in the Brokers chest.
Fie that his Ostridge stomack should digest
His Ostridge feather: eate vp Venis-lace.
Thou that did’st feare to eate Pore-Iohns aspace.
Lie close ye slaue at beastly luxury;
Melt and consume in pleasures surquedry.
The second is Davies’s ‘In Fuscum. 39’, a poem in the tradition of Martial, which follows Fuscus through his repetitious routine:
Fuscus is free, and hath the worlde at will,
Yet in the course of life that he doth leade:
Hees like a horse which turning rounde a mill,
Doth alwaies in the selfe same circle treade:
First he doth rise at ten, and at eleven
He goes to Gilles, where he doth eate till one,
Then sees he a play till sixe, and sups at seaven,
And after supper, straight to bed is gone.
And there til tenne next day he doth remaine,
And then he dines, then sees a commedie:
And then he suppes, and goes to bed againe,
Thus rounde he runs without varietie:
Save that sometimes he comes not to the play,
But falls into a whoore house by the way.
§15 In terms of content, there is much to connect these texts: both are concerned with the men who frequent brothels. In both cases, the humour is directed at the disparity between appearance and reality. Fuscus appears to be ‘free’, yet is chained to his routines like a horse to its wheel. Tubrio poses at being a man of action, but is in fact lying close ‘at beastly luxury’. Tonally, however, there are significant differences. Marston’s passage is not – as some have implied – an epigram which has been stitched into a larger structure. Rather, it is a mocking attack on pretension, in which the satiric persona repeatedly intervenes and evaluates Tubrio: in the opening, he exposes the idea that Tubrio has gone to sea (‘I did view/ The man betake him to a common stew’); he then goes on to denounce him as a creature of appetite ‘Melt[ing] in pleasures surquedry’. As throughout the satire, Marston’s attention is on the title, ‘Quedam videntur, et non sunt’, that is, ‘those who appear to be virtuous and yet are not’. Tubrio – like the other figures mocked in the poem, including the dancing Curio, who is probably a portrait of Davies – is a hypocrite. In its own terms, this is powerful and effective writing, where the tension between imaginative ‘libertie’, the couplet form, and the iambic pentameter rhythm is always threatening to overturn order as the speaker’s bile overflows. Consider the metre of ‘And there (I wis) like no quaint stomack’t man’, where Marston wrests the expected stress from ‘no’ onto the metrically unstressed double entendre ‘quaint’, a word which emphasises Tubrio’s real interests – in prostitutes.
§16 Davies has no such need to evaluate. In place of Marston’s ‘clotted’ voice, he successfully captures a more urbane, observational tone, in which the comedy emerges by the simple variation in Fuscus’s routine detailed in the couplet. The implosive register of ‘pleasures surquedry’ has no place in a poetic context which can simply note ‘Save that sometimes he […] falls into a whoore house by the way’; Davies’s technique is analogous to Martial’s use of paraprosdokia, in which the reader’s expectation is subverted by a closing turn of phrase. The poem offsets Fuscus’s freedom with the technical restraints of the sonnet form and an effortless achieved iambic poise. Though Davies may invert feet (as in first trochaic foot, ‘Fuscus’), the metrical template is of a conversational regularity which is far removed from the less predictable metres of The Scourge of Villanie; ‘Doth alwaies in the selfe same circle treade’ at once describes Fuscus’s little varying routines and exemplifies Davies’s conversational handling of the iambic line. Similarly, lines 5-12 deploy the deceptively simple device of repetition – ‘First he doth rise at ten’; ‘And there til tenne’; ‘and straight to bed is gone’; ‘and goes to bed againe’ – to expose the disjunction between Fuscus’s self evaluation and the actuality of the life he leads. It is this tone of urbane observation rather than the clotted voice of the verse satires which informs The Dutch Courtesan stylistically. In the final section, I discuss two of these devices: those related to the ironic repetition exemplified by Davies, and the use of ‘wanton words’ to entertain, satirize and educate.
§17 ‘Of Fuscus’ is a rich demonstration of the way in which epigram uses repetition for comic effect. The Dutch Courtesan uses similar devices, in particular that of ironic requotation. This is unsurprising in such a linguistically self-conscious play: the device is consistently used as a way of undermining sententious utterances and drawing the audience’s attention to moments of linguistic pretentiousness. Freevill’s teasing of Malheureux at the end of the first scene establishes a pattern repeated throughout the play:
Malheureux: Well, I’ll go to make her loathe the shame she’s in.
The sight of vice augments the hate of sin.
Freevill:‘The sight of vice augments the hate of sin.’
Very fine, perdy!
This is what might be described as dramatic paraprosdokia. By repeating Malheureux’s self-important moral, Freevill underlines the extremity of Malheureux’s position. The half line, or return to the prose which has dominated the first scene, ‘Very fine, perdy!’, cues the joke to the audience that they are listening to ‘fine’ language which bears little relationship to lived experience, as it bathetically closes the scene. The joke is so good that Freevill repeats it after Malheureux has seen and become intoxicated by Franceschina: ‘pardon me that have brought you in./ You know the sight of vice augments the hate of sin’ (I.ii.190-91). In this case, Freevill ironically undermines Malheureux’s sententious verse forms with epigrammatic flair; ‘the shame she’s in’ of the first scene is transformed into a more ambiguous reference to the brothel Franceschina is ‘in’ and would be easy to play as a double entendre. The economy of rhetorical means is partly what connects such writing with the techniques of epigram and the exposure of sententious sentiment to comedic scrutiny.
§18 Similar games are at work in the role of Mistress Mulligrub, which is almost constructed from repetition and unconscious double entendre. Cocledemoy readily seizes on her linguistic pretension as another opportunity to deceive her husband. III.iii begins by mocking Mistress Mulligrub’s sense of her own sophistication:
Mistress Mulligrub: […] I acknowledge the receipt.
I acknowledge all the receipt. Sure, ’tis very well spoken! ‘I acknowledge the receipt!’ Thus ’tis to have good education and to be brought up in a tavern. I do keep as gallant and as good company, though I do say it, as any she in London. (III.iii.18-23).
In the ensuing dialogue with Cocledemoy, Mistress Mulligrub is again alert to conversational forms at the expense of content:
Cocledemoy: Fair hour to you, mistress!
Mistress Mulligrub: [aside] ‘Fair hour’! Fine term; faith, I’ll score it up anon. [To Cocledemoy] A beautiful thought to you, sir. […] Tell them they shall be most sincerely welcome.
Cocledemoy: ‘Shall be most sincerely welcome’! Worshipful Cocledemoy, lurk close. Hang toasts, be not ashamed of thy quality! Every man’s turd smells well in’s own nose. Vanish, foist! (III.iii.36-39; 54-60)
§19 Though most modern editions make Mistress Mulligrub’s delight with ‘Fair hour!’ into an aside on the grounds that she goes onto address Cocledemoy directly, arguably in performance it makes the humour broader if she takes no pains to disguise her linguistic acquisitiveness, which is exposed in Cocledemoy’s brief soliloquy as he simultaneously nails Mistress Mulligrub’s linguistic and social pretensions. Again, there are analogies in the work of Davies. ‘In Gallum. 24’, is a related linguistic satire directed at the ‘gulling termes’ of a fashionable young man who ‘hath bin this Sommer in Friesland’. Gallus and the speaker alternately impose incomprehensible military and legal jargon on one another, leading to the conclusion that ‘So neyther of us understanding eyther,/ We part as wise as when we came together’. The Dutch Courtesan’s version of the same reflection is voiced by Crispinella in her desire to avoid Caqueteur: ‘His discourse is like the long word Honorificabilitudinitatibus: a great deal of sound and no sense. His company is like a parenthesis to a discourse: you may admit it, or leave it out, it makes no matter’ (V.ii.25-29). In the earlier scene, Mistress Mulligrub displays none of Crispinella’s stylistic savvy, preferring sound to sense and becoming a citizen version of the gulls mocked by Davies. Throughout the play, Marston’s satire on language displays a sophisticated awareness of the comedic resources of repetition and the ways in which trendy usages can expose characters’ social and intellectual shortcomings. Like the best epigrammatists, he exposes such pretensions chiefly by showing them rather than – as in his own satires – railing against them.
§20 I conclude by looking again at the part of the epigram literature and The Dutch Courtesan which modern readers and audiences can find least sympathetic. This is what might be called the paradox of scatological and sexual usage. Whilst Cocledemoy’s talk of turds is vigorously entertaining in performance, in epigram similarly ‘wanton words’ can seem crude, cruel, or according to modern standards, hopelessly sexist. I want to reflect on how the consciously licentious discourse of The Dutch Courtesan interacts with early modern ideas of taste, in which entertainment and humiliation are uneasy bedfellows. As Guilpin’s ‘To the Reader’ suggests, epigram’s ‘wanton words’ are an essential part of its stylistic recipe. Davies’s poems about prostitutes exemplify coterie writing designed for a predominantly male Inns of Court audience which delights in travestying orthodox notions of taste. In such contexts, prostitutes are simply alternative targets to the fashionable gulls mocked elsewhere. ‘In Leucam. 14’ is good example:
Leuca in presence once a fart did let
Some laught a little, she forsooke the place:
And mazde with shame, did eke her glove forget,
Which she returned to fetch with bashfull grace:
And when she would have said, this is my glove,
My fart (quoth she) which did more laughter move.
§21 Davies elaborates a simple idea in the service of what is to modern readers a cruel joke. Leuca endures the humiliation of farting ‘in presence’ – in an audience of her social superiors – which is compounded by her verbal confusion of ‘glove’ with ‘fart’. Though the humour is unsubtle, the verse cleverly moves from dispassionate observation (‘Some laught a little’), empathetic presentation of Leuca’s position (‘mazde with shame’), back to a social context of amused disdain for physical weakness and lexical confusion. Like many epigrams, it’s almost the outline sketch of a comic scene, marrying the competing impulses of festive comedy with what might be seen as the educational cruelty characteristic of plays like The Dutch Courtesan. In the play, festive impulses are further complicated by Marston’s reading of Montaigne, in particular the protests in ‘Upon some verses of Virgill’ against conventional standards of linguistic decency in relation to sex:
Why was the acte of generation made so naturall, so necessary and so iust, seeing we feare to speake of it without shame, & exclude it from our serious and reguler discourses? we pronounce boldly to rob, to murther, to betray; and this we dare not but betweene our teeth […] words least used, least written, and least concealed, should best be vnderstood, and most generally knowne.
Montaigne’s position, and Florio’s wording, directly inform that of Crispinella:
We pronounce boldly robbery, murder, treason, which deeds must be far more loathsome than an act which is so natural, just, and necessary as that of procreation […] I give thoughts words, and words truth, and truth boldness. She whose honest freeness makes it her virtue to speak what she thinks will make it her necessity to think what is good. (III.i.39-51)
As many scholars have argued, The Dutch Courtesan is a serious adaptation of Montaigne’s scepticism about sexual and linguistic mores. Stylistically therefore, the play embraces the scatological discourse typical of Cocledemoy alongside Crispinella’s more serious criticism of linguistic custom.
§22 But a tonal problem remains. Are the moments at which the script voices ‘honest freeness’ indicative of a consistent critique of contemporary language or are they simply intended to outrage and delight? What Puttenham calls ‘taunting at vndecent things’ is clear in the prostitute epigrams of Davies and Guilpin: the primary purpose of a text like ‘In Leucam’ is to make the reader enjoy a joke at Leuca’s expense. Critics like Finkelpearl and Cross have plausibly suggested that The Dutch Courtesan is an attack on the moralism of Malheureux and Mulligrub, which suggests that audiences need to side with Freevill and Cocledemoy in their vigorous prosecution of these characters as hypocrites. While this remains a plausible approach, at the same time the ambivalence of Davies and Guilpin suggests that we should avoid reading The Dutch Courtesan as a wholly moral drama. Rather, like the epigrams with which it shares so much, this is a script which aims to get its audience’s alert engagement and complicit laughter. Stylistically, this remains a text where ‘rough skins and hard stools’ are first and foremost something to make us laugh; it is a knowingly a ‘slight play’ which takes seriously its dialogues with Martial and his followers (III.i.65-66).
- 1) John Marston, Selected Plays, ed. Macdonald P. Jackson and Michael Neill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p.305 and passim. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from this edition. As Jackson and Neill note, this is Cocledemoy’s ‘favourite nonsense oath’.↵
- 2) See Philip J. Finkelpearl, John Marston of the Middle Temple: An Elizabethan Dramatist in His Social Setting (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), pp. 3-80, for the influence of the Inns of Court milieu on Marston and his contemporaries. For the family connections between Marston and Guilpin, see Everard Guilpin, Skialetheia Or A Shadowe of Truthe, in Certaine Epigrams and Satyres, ed. D. Allen Carroll (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1974), p.5.↵
- 3) Colin Burrow, ‘Roman Satire in the Sixteenth Century’, in Kirk Freudenburg (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Roman Satire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 249-50.↵
- 4) John Marston, The Poems, ed. Arnold Davenport (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1961), p. 158.↵
- 5) My emphases. Though some prosodists argue that spondees are hard to achieve in English, Marston seems intent on achieving this kind of effect. Compare Robert Pinsky, The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), p. 65, with Catherine Addison, ‘Stress Felt, Stroke Dealt: The Spondee, the Text, and the Reader’, in Style 39.2 (2005), pp. 153-74.↵
- 6) Alvin Kernan, The Cankered Muse: Satire of the English Renaissance (New Haven: Yale UP, 1959), pp. 55-58. Burrow adds useful riders to Kernan’s model, arguing that Donne and Jonson were more influenced by the Horatian rather than the Juvenalian tradition; see ‘Roman Satire’, pp. 254-59.↵
- 7) See Marston, The Poems, pp. 100-1, and Davenport’s note, p. 265, which points out the possible connections between Kinsayder and canine imagery. For Hall’s epigram, see Marston, The Poems, pp. 164-65, where it is reported within Marston’s own ‘Satyra Nova’. See also Joseph Hall, The Poems, ed. Arnold Davenport (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1949; rpt., 1969), p.101 and notes.↵
- 8) William Rankins, Seven Satires (1598), ed. A. Davenport (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1948), p. 4.↵
- 9) Marston has numerous similar passages; see for example Certaine Satyres II, ll.11-15, in The Poems p. 72. As Carroll notes, he was especially ‘fond of applying canine metaphors to himself’; in Skialetheia,p.104.↵
- 10) Rankins, Seven Satires, p. 5. Spenser would almost certainly have avoided the strong accent on ‘the’ in the second line. For the argument that Marston’s satires fit into a tradition of ‘strong lines’ following the work of Donne, see Anthony Caputi, John Marston, Satirist (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1961; rpt. New York: Octagon, 1976), pp. 42-51.↵
- 11) See for example John Peter, Complaint and Satire in Early English Literature (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956), pp. 158-77.↵
- 12) See Davenport’s note in Marston, The Poems, p. 288. Marston quotes from Horace’s Satire II.viii.80.↵
- 13) Marston, The Poems, pp. 112, 115, 117.↵
- 14) See Kernan, The Cankered Muse, p. 206, for the suggestion that all of Marston’s plays incorporate a satirist figure.↵
- 15) In this case, I have quoted from John Marston, The Dutch Courtesan, ed. M. L. Wine (London: Edward Arnold, 1965), p. 63, because Wine preserves the Quarto’s reading of ‘grogaran’ instead of the modernised ‘grogram’ adopted by McDonald and Neill in Marston, Selected Plays, p. 349. This emphasises the lexical similarity with Donne’s Satire IV noted below.↵
- 16) See Jackson and Neill’s note in Marston, Selected Plays, p. 349. See also OEM entry on “supererogation, n.” ↵
- 17) Charles Nicholl, A Cup of News: The Life of Thomas Nashe (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), p. 175.↵
- 18) On the Ban, see Richard A. McCabe, ‘Elizabethan Satire and the Bishops’ Ban of 1599’, Yearbook of English Studies 11 (1981), pp. 189-93, and William R. Jones, ‘The Bishops’ Ban of 1599 and the Ideology of English Satire’, Literature Compass 7/5 (2010), pp. 332-46. McCabe and Jones modify Peter’s view that the Ban was primarily concerned with the sexual content of satire and epigram, arguing that the main aim of the authorities was to suppress potentially subversive writing; see Peter, Complaint and Satire, pp. 149-50.↵
- 19) The Dutch Courtesan alludes to the Ban in a passage much indebted to Montaigne – see III.i.54-55 (‘those books that are called in are most in sale and request’), in Selected Plays, p. 338; and The Dutch Courtesan, ed. Wine, p. 116, for Florio’s Montaigne.↵
- 20) See OED entry on “penurious, adj.”.↵
- 21) See OED entry on “grogram, n.”; John Donne, The Satires, Epigrams, and Verse Letters, ed. W. Milgate (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967, rpt, 2000), p. 17 (l.86); see also Milgate’s note, p. 155.↵
- 22) See OEM entry on “† ?gargalize, v.”.↵
- 23) See OEM entry on “shark, v.1”.↵
- 24) See for example Certaine Satyres V, ll.179-84, The Scourge of Villanie IV, ll.160-70, and the whole of ‘Satyra Nova’, a poem dedicated to Guilpin and added to the 1599 edition of The Scourge (in Marston, The Poems, pp. 92, 123-24, 163-66). See Finkelpearl, John Marston, pp.117-18, for the suggestion that ‘Satyra Nova’ is a farewell to verse satire which precedes the Bishops’ Ban.↵
- 25) Marston, The Poems, p. 140. For the view that Marston’s satires articulate a consistent neo-Stoicism, see Caputi, John Marston, pp. 52-79; for problems with Caputi’s model, see Finkelpearl, John Marston, p. 110 n. 36.↵
- 26) Marston, The Poems, pp. 128-29. For the humanist suspicion of rhyme, see Derek Attridge, Well-Weighed Syllables: Elizabethan Verse in Classical Metres (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974; pbk, 1979), pp. 89-105, and Richard Danson Brown and J. B. Lethbridge (eds), A Concordance to the Rhymes of The Faerie Queene, With two Studies of Spenser’s Rhyme, forthcoming with Manchester University Press.↵
- 27) On the Familists, see for example Jean Dietz Moss, ‘The Family of Love and English Critics’, The Sixteenth Century Journal 6.1 (1975), pp. 35-52, and Christopher W. Marsh, The Family of Love in English Society 1550-1630 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).↵
- 28) See Jackson and Neill’s notes to I.ii.30-31 in Marston, Selected Plays, p. 305.↵
- 29) For ‘faugh’, see The Dutch Courtesan, ed. Wine, p. 4, and OED entry on “faugh, int.”.↵
- 30) As noted in Marston, Selected Plays, p. 280. See Thomas Bastard, Chrestoleros: Seuen bookes of Epirgrames written by T B. (London: I[ohn] B[roome], 1598), pp. 97-98, sig. H [1 r] – H [1 v], accessed via Early English Books Online, 1 February 2013. See also Finkelpearl, John Marston, pp. 182-83 FN 5, for the argument that this quotation is a compliment to a fellow Inns of Court man. Bastard’s work was not so well received by all contemporaries: see Sir John Harington’s teasing epigrams addressed to him; in The Epigrams, ed. Gerard Kilroy (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), pp. 167, 171, 176.↵
- 31) Marston, Selected Plays, p. 318. For the debt to Montaigne, see Wine’s note in The Dutch Courtesan, p.115. For the original epigram (XI.60), see Martial, Epigrams, 3 vols. Trans. and ed. D. R. Shackleton Bailey (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), III, pp. 54-55.↵
- 32) John Marston, The Dutch Courtezan (London: John Hodgets, 1605), sig. A 3 [r]. For Martial II.86, see Epigrams, I, pp. 194-95; this is Shackleton Bailey’s translation.↵
- 33) II.86 in Martial, Epigrams, I, pp. 194-95↵
- 34) The Dutch Courtesan, ed. Wine, p.xxiv.↵
- 35) Peter argues that Martial was a major influence on Marston’s verse satires; see Complaint and Satire, pp. 161-68, a claim which is undermined by Arnold Stein, ‘The Second English Satirist’, Modern Language Review, 38.4 (1943), p. 277, and Davenport, in Marston, The Poems, p. 29.↵
- 36) Kernan, The Cankered Muse, p. 136 FN. See also Jack D. Winner, ‘Ben Jonson’s Epigrammes and the conventions of formal verse satire’, Studies in English Literature 23 (1983), p .69, who cites Guilpin in support of the view that Elizabethans saw little distinction between satire and epigram, although without detailed attention to ‘Satyr Preludium’.↵
- 37) McCabe, ‘Elizabethan Satire’, p. 191.↵
- 38) ‘Satyr Preludium’, ll.70, 73-76. In Guilpin, Skialetheia, p. 61.↵
- 39) ‘The Author in prayse of his precedent Poem’, ll.35-37, in Marston, The Poems, p. 66↵
- 40) ‘Satyr Preludium’, ll.81-84, in Guilpin, Skialetheia, p. 61.↵
- 41) For the background, see the entry on “torture” in Gordon Campbell (ed.) The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance (Oxford University Press, 2003)↵
- 42) See Guilpin, Skialetheia, p. 150, for Carroll’s notes.↵
- 43) ‘Satyr Preludium, ll.89-90, in Guilpin, Skialetheia, p. 61; see also Carroll’s note, p. 151. Guilpin’s thinking here is similar to Harington’s dedicatory poem ‘To Iames the sixt, king of Scotland’, ll.13-14: ‘We do but poynt out vices and detect them/’Tis you great Prince, that one day must correct them’ (in The Epigrams, p. 94).↵
- 44) ‘To the Reader. 47, in Guilpin, Skialetheia, p. 52.↵
- 45) Note also Franceschina’s brilliantly comedic yet challenging final couplet ‘Ick vill not speak; torture, torture your fill,/ For me am worse than hanged: me ha’ lost my will’ (V.iii.59-60).↵
- 46) For Martial’s defence of his linguistic license, see the preface to Book I in Martial, Epigrams, I, pp.40-41. See also Sir John Davies, ‘Ad Musam 1’, in The Poems, ed. Robert Krueger (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975), p.129; Harington’s dedication ‘To the most gratious and noble Prince Henry’ in The Epigrams, p.93 (which seeks to excuse ‘some broade phrases in them’); and Bastard, Chrestoleros, sig. A [4 r], for the claim that he had ‘taught Epigrams to speake chastlie’.↵
- 47) George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesy, in G. Gregory Smith (ed.), Elizabethan Critical Essays, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1904), II, p. 27. See p. 32 for the connection of satires with satyrs.↵
- 48) Smith, Elizabethan Critical Essays, II, p. 56.↵
- 49) Satyre I, ‘Quedam videntur, et non sunt.’, ll.93-104, in Marston, The Poems, p. 70↵
- 50) Davies, The Poems, pp. 146-47. See p. 387 for analogues with Martial and Guilpin. Harington has a similar poem about a female subject (IV.64); see The Epigrams, p. 233.↵
- 51) Davenport has compared this passage of Marston with Guilpin’s ‘Of Cornelius. 53’, although this is not an epigram concerned with prostitution, in Marston, The Poems, p. 223.↵
- 52) See Davenport’s note in Marston, The Poems, pp. 217-18.↵
- 53) See Davenport’s note in Marston, The Poems, p. 228. Marston’s main joke at Curio’s expense is his love of dancing, and his writing of Orchestra; see p. 167. Davenport suggests that Davies may also be the subject of Guilpin’s ‘Of Curio. 18’; ‘To Candidus. 20’ has a more direct allusion to Davies’s gulling poems, which praises him as ‘Our English Martiall’; see Skialetheia, p. 44. There is also a direct allusion to ‘Faith (wench) I cannot court thy sprightly eyes’, ascribed to Ignoto in the 1599 edition of Epigrams and almost certainly by Davies, in ‘Quedam videntur, et non sunt’, ll.21-22. Davenport notes analogues in Skialetheia and Every Man in his Humour, but Davies’s poem is probably the primary target; compare Davies’s ‘I cannot court thy sprightly eyes,/ With the base Viall betweene my Thighes’ with Marston’s ‘(Thy Gambo viol plac’d betwixt thy thighs,/Wherein the best part of thy courtship lyes)’. See Davies, The Poems, p. 180 (notes on pp. 399-401), and Marston, The Poems, p. 67 (notes on p. 220).↵
- 54) See OED entry on “quaint, n.1”. ‘Pricks him’ at the start of the extract is another obvious double entendre.↵
- 55) See T. K. Whipple, Martial and the English Epigram from Sir Thomas Wyatt to Ben Jonson (Berekely: University of California Press, 1925), p. 292.↵
- 56) My emphases.↵
- 57) For other relevant examples, see Davies, ‘In Cineam. 19’, and Guilpin, ‘Of Zeno. 15’, in The Poems, pp. 136-37, and Skialetheia, p. 43.↵
- 58) See Finkelpearl’s useful discussion of the way in which Marston problematises Malheureux’s ‘santimonious sententiae’, in John Marston, pp. 202-11 (203).↵
- 59) The lineation of this passage is uncertain. Though Marston is banking on an audience remembering the earlier exchange, the second line is an iambic alexandrine, while the preceding line (‘Do, good sir, and pardon me that have brought you in’) is metrically irregular, and could be read as either a six or a five stress line. The punctuation in the quarto seems to suggest that this is intended to be a loose verse couplet (the ‘You’ is capitalized), but the metrical irregularity of the first line implies that Freevill’s mockery takes the form of doggerel pitched between verse and prose; see The Dutch Curtezan sig. B 3 [r].↵
- 60) See Guilpin, ‘Satyr Preludium’, ll.41-42, for the use of the same rhyming terms in an analogous context: ‘Who comming from the Curtaine sneaketh in,/ To some odde garden noted house of sinne’, in Skialetheia, p. 60.↵
- 61) The quarto passage has no stage directions and little punctuation. See The Dutch Courtezan, sig. E 3 [v], accessed via Early English Books Online, 5 February 2013. Cocledemoy’s brilliant line on turds is another Marston sampled from Florio’s Montaigne; see The Dutch Courtesan, ed. Wine, p. 117.↵
- 62) Davies, The Poems, p. 139.↵
- 63) See Finkelpearl, John Marston, pp. 72-73.↵
- 64) Davies, The Poems, pp. 134-35.↵
- 65) See Davies, The Poems, p. 383, note on ‘Of a Gull. 2’ for ‘in presence’.↵
- 66) For the background on festivity, see C. L. Barber, Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and its Relation to Social Custom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959; rpt. 1972), pp. 3-57.↵
- 67) Michel de Montaigne, The Essayes, trans. John Florio (London: Edward Blount, 1603), pp. 508-09.↵
- 68) Marston, Selected Plays, p. 338.↵
- 69) See Gustav Cross, ‘Marston, Montaigne, and Morality: The Dutch Courtezan Reconsidered’, ELH 27.1 (1960), pp. 30-43, and Finkelpearl, John Marston, pp. 198-201.↵
- 70) Marston, Selected Plays, p. 339; ‘slight play’ is from the Prologue, l.16, p. 294.↵