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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

II. Chapman, Marston, Dekker

§ 13. Eastward Hoe

The Dutch Courtezan, though a capital play, is surpassed by Eastward Hoe, but, since the drama was written in conjunction with Chapman and Jonson, the entire credit for this brilliant and delightful performance cannot be claimed for Marston. While it might not be difficult to assign with some confidence certain scenes to each of these writers, the attempt exactly to apportion their respective contributions would lead to a succession of unverifiable conjectures. All must share in the praise due to it, as all were partakers in the misfortune to which it led. It was written shortly after the accession of James I to the throne of England, and contained sarcastic references to the multitude of needy Scottish adventures who came south with their king, and many of whom successfully claimed place and fortune. Stage jesting at the expense of Scottish men and manners had been complained of to lord Burghley by the English agent at the Edinburgh court in 1598, and it had now become possible to deal with it. Attention was called by Sir James Graham, who may himself have been glanced at in the play, to a passage in the third act, in which captain Seagull remarks:

  • But as for them [the Scots] there are no greater friends to Englishmen and England, when they are out on’t, in the world, than they are. And for my part, I would a hundred thousand of ’hem were there, for we are all one countrymen now, ye know, and we should find ten times more comfort of them there than we do here.
  • The consequences of the mild freedom of comment which the dramatists here allowed themselves was related by Ben Jonson to Drummond—
  • He was dilated by Sir James Murray to the King, for writing something against the Scots, in a play Eastward Hoe, and voluntarily imprisoned himself with Chapman and Marston, who had written it amongst them. The report was, that they should then [have] had their ears cut and noses. After their delivery, he banqueted all his friends; there was Camden, Selden and others; at the midst of the feast his old mother dranke to him, and shew him a paper which she had (if the sentence had taken execution) to have mixed in the prisson among his drinke, which was full of lustie strong poison, and that she was no churle, she told, she minded first to have drunk of it herself.
  • Some copies of the play, of which several editions appeared in 1605, omit the matter complained of, and other slight variations are to be found in the extant copies. A version by Tate was acted in 1685 under the title Cuckold’s Haven, or An Alderman no Conjurer. As a picture of city life, Eastward Hoe has no superior in our dramatic history. The old goldsmith Touchstone, with his wife and daughters, and the idle and the industrious apprentice, form an admirable and life-like group, which instantly engages interest and attention. The reckless and extravagant Sir Petronel Flush, burning to repair his fortunes and escape his creditors by a treasure seeking voyage to Virginia, and ravished by Seagull’s account of its wealth, declares:
  • I tell thee, golde is more plentiful there than copper is with us … all the chaines with which they chaine up their streets are massie gold; all the prisoners they take are feterd in gold; and for rubies and diamonds, they go forth on holydayes and gather ’hem by the sea-shore.
  • This adventurer, with his companions, gives the authors an admirable opportunity for depicting the shifty society of the city which lives by its wits, and a vivid contrast is thus furnished to the household of the honest tradesman. The plot is complicated by intrigue, and well managed, the action has a lively movement and the conclusion contrives “to reconcile us to ourselves and to human nature.” Few Elizabethan comedies can be praised so unreservedly as this.

    “Comedies are writ to be spoken, not read; remember the life of these things consists in action,” remarks the author in the preface to his play entitled Parasitaster, Or The Fawne (printed in two editions 1606), and certainly, though no doubt fairly successful on the stage, this drama has no great literary merit. The chief character, duke Hercules, appears in disguise at the court of Urbino, whither he has sent his son as an ambassador of love, and the situation reminds us of The Malcontent. The heroine, Dulcimel, is of the type already portrayed in Crispinella (The Dutch Courtezan) and Rossaline in Antonio and Mellida, the gay, sparkling and vivacious damsel, who holds her own in the company of men. In Beatrice, the sister of Crispinella, and in Mildred (Eastward Hoe) we have another of Marston’s favourite types of feminine character, the good, simple girl, modest and affectionate. Marston is not rich in female types, and if we add, to those mentioned, the strong-willed passionate woman who appears in some of his tragedies, we exhaust his range. The story is taken from the third novel of the third day of The Decameron; but the idea is an old one and had already been employed by Terence in his Adelphi.