Disgusting John Marston Sensationalism and the Limits

Disgusting John Marston Sensationalism and the Limits -...

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Disgusting John Marston: Sensationalism and the Limits of A Post-Modern Marston Georgia Brown, Queens’ College, Cambridge University [The conspirators] pluck out [PIERO’S] tongue and triumph over him. Antonio . 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. Balurdo . 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! Antonio . Behold, black dog! [ Holding up PIERO’S tongue.] Pandulpho . Grinn’st thou, thou snurling cur? Alberto . Eat thy black liver! Antonio . To thine anguish see A fool triumphant in thy misery. Vex him, Balurdo. Pandulpho . He weeps! Now do I glorify my hands. I had no vengeance if I had no tears. (Antonio’s Revenge 5.5.34-45) 1 With its bloodlust, energy and violence, the murder of Piero at the climax of Antonio’s Revenge , 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 1 John Marston, Antonio’s Revenge , ed. W. Reavley Gair (1999).
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Georgia Brown 122 common with Piero, so this scene points to the cruelty that lurks in comedy, and the comedy that lurks in cruelty. Moreover, at this moment of theatrical intensity, when ideals of justice and political action are subjected to great pressure, Balurdo introduces sexuality, as well as bathos, into the equation, because the tickling, or touching, that produces laughter easily slips into sexual caressing. 2 This essay returns to the old, and now rather unfashionable, issue of sensationalism in early modern drama, and explores one of the components of sensationalism that has received rather less attention from critics: the exploitation of disgust. Sensationalism, which is the drive to produce startling and violently exciting effects, does not just depend on hyperbole and a focus on extreme situations, it thrives on moral and
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This note was uploaded on 07/21/2011 for the course BUS 10001 taught by Professor All during the Spring '11 term at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology.

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Disgusting John Marston Sensationalism and the Limits -...

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