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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.

VI. Philip Massinger

§ 14. His lovers

In several plays, the passion of Massinger’s heroes takes the form of violent, though groundless, jealousy. The jealous whims of Leosthenes irritate the noble Cleora and, finally, estrange her from him; Mathias doubts the fidelity of his wife; the suspicions of Theodosius, the Emperor of the East, threaten the life of Athenais; Marcelia, the proud wife of Sforza, is murdered by the selfish passion of her husband. A far more imposing figure than these egoists, tormented by their own folly, is the hero of the tragedy The Fatall Dowry, the sombre Charolais, who kills his adulterous wife and her gallant, and himself falls a victim to his revenge.

Besides these men who, fighting the battle of life, are not entirely absorbed by the passion of love—for, even in the sketch of the murderous Sforza, much stress is laid by the poet on his warlike qualities and the astuteness of the Italian politician who, standing between the French king and the emperor, knows how to reconcile his loyalty with his advantage—we find among Massinger’s lovers, also, the conventional types of the contemporary drama: the devoted lover who lives on the smile of his lady, such as Ladislaus, the humble husband of the proud Honoria, Caldorio and the over-bashful Hortensio, and young libertines like Adorio and Alonzo, whose conversion, usually, is as incredible as it is sudden. Massinger’s most attractive boy lover, who really has no other hopes, as yet, than “to stonden in his lady grace,” and who utters his feelings with charming freshness, is prince Giovanni, the “north-star” to whom Lidia looks up adoringly.