Disgusting John Marston: Sensationalism and the Limits
of A Post-Modern Marston
Georgia Brown, Queens’ College, Cambridge University
[The conspirators] pluck out
tongue and triumph over him.
. I have’t, Pandulpho; the veins panting bleed,
Trickling fresh gore about my fist. Bind fast! So, so.
Ghost of Andrugio
. Blest be thy hand. I taste the joys of heaven,
Viewing my son triumph in his black blood.
. Down to the dungeon with him; I’ll dungeon with him; I’ll fool you! Sir
Geoffrey will be Sir Geoffrey. I’ll tickle you!
. Behold, black dog!
Grinn’st thou, thou snurling cur?
. Eat thy black liver!
To thine anguish see
A fool triumphant in thy misery.
Vex him, Balurdo.
. He weeps! Now do I glorify my hands.
I had no vengeance if I had no tears.
(Antonio’s Revenge 5.5.34-45)
With its bloodlust, energy and violence, the murder of Piero at the climax
, exemplifies John Marston’s sensationalism, and
its unstable, some would say incoherent, morality. This is, after all, the
moment when the victims of Piero’s tyrannical regime finally impose
justice and achieve some kind of redress, and yet these instruments of
justice are themselves tainted by cruelty and the suspicion that revenge
has become the means to achieve self-glorification. When the ghost of
Andrugio hails his son, Antonio, “triumph[ing] in his black blood” (line
37), is the blood Piero’s, or Antonio’s, and do Andrugio’s words suggest
kinship between the villain, Piero, and the hero, Antonio? Typically, for
Marston’s sensationalism, this scene combines moral confusion with
generic confusion. Not only is Antonio disguised as a fool, but the real
fool, Geoffrey Balurdo, interrupts the unfolding melodrama with farce
and his characteristic linguistic ineptitude: “Down to the dungeon with
him; I’ll dungeon with him; I’ll fool You! Sir Geoffrey will be Sir
Geoffrey. I’ll tickle you!” (lines 38-39). Just as Antonio has things in
, ed. W. Reavley Gair (1999).