This Author was Born at Salisbury, in the Reign of King Charles the First; being Son to Philip Massinger, a Gentleman belonging to the Earl of Montgomery, in whose service after having spent many years happily, he Died. He bestow'd a liberal Education on our Author, sending him to the University of Oxford, at Eighteen years of Age viz. 1602. where he closely pursued his Studies in Alban-Hall, for Three or Four years space. How he spent his Life afterwards I know not: but 'tis evident that he dedicated a great part of his Studies to Poetry, from several Plays which he has publisht, and which were highly esteem'd of by the Wits of those times, for the purity of Stile, and the Oeconomy of their Plots; for which Excellency he is thus commended by an old Poet:
Ingenious Shakespear, Massinger, that knows
The Strength of Plot, to write in Verse, and Prose;
Whose Easy Pegasus will ramble o're
Some Threescore Miles of Fancy in an Hour.
He was extreamly belov'd by the Poets of that Age, and there were few but what took it as an Honour to club with him in a Play: witness Middleton, Rowley, Field, and Decker: all which join'd with him in several Labours. Nay, further to shew his Excellency, the ingenious Fletcher, took him in as a Partner in several Plays, as I have already hinted, p. 217. He was a Man of much Modesty and extraordinary Parts, and were it not that I fear to draw Envy on our Poets Memory, I could produce several Testimonials in confirmation of this truth: however I will give the Reader one Instance for many, being the Testimony of a Worthy Gentleman, Sir Thomas Jay:
You may remember, how you chid me, when
I rankt you equal those glorious Men
Beaumont and Fletcher: if you love not praise,
You must forbear the publishing of Plays.
The crafty Mazes of the cunning Plot;
The polisht Phrase; the sweet Expressions, got
Neither by theft, nor violence; The Conceipt
Fresh, and unsullied; All is of weight,
Able to make the Captive Reader know,
I did but Justice, when I plac'd you so.
Our Author has publisht Fourteen Plays of his own Writing, besides those in which he join'd with other Poets. We shall begin with a Play call'd
Bashful Lover, a Tragi-comedy often acted at the private House in Black-friars, by His Majesties Servants, with great Applause, printed 8vo. 1655.
Bondman, an ancient Story, often acted with good allowance at the Cock-pit in Drury-lane, by the most Excellent Princess the Lady Elizabeth her Servants, printed 4to. Lond. 1638. and dedicated to the Right Honourable and his Singular good Lord Philip Earl of Montgomery. The Plot of the Slaves being seduc'd to Rebellion by Pisander, and reduc'd by Timoleon, and their flight at the sight of the Whips; is borrow'd from the Story of the Scythian Slaves Rebellion against their Master. See Justin L. 1. C. 5.
City Madam, a Comedy acted at the private House in Black-friars with great Applause, printed 4to. Lond. 1659. for Andrew Pennycuicke, One of the Actors, and dedicated by him to the truly Noble and Virtuous Lady, Anne, Countess of Oxford. This is an Excellent old Play.
Duke of Millain, a Tragedy printed in 4to. tho when, or where acted I know not, my Copy being imperfect. As to the Plot, I suppose Sforza's giving orders to his Favourite Francisco, to murther his beloved Wife the Dutchess Marcelia, was borrow'd from the History of Herod, who on the like occasion left orders with his Uncle Joseph to put his beloved Mariamne to Death; as the Reader may see in Josephus, Lib. 15. Cap. 4.
Emperor of the East, a Tragi-comedy divers times acted at the Black-friars, and Globe Playhouses, by the King's Majesties Servants, printed 4to. Lond. 1632. and dedicated to the Right Honourable, and his very good Lord, John Lord Mohune, Baron of Oke-hampton. This Play is commended by three Copies of Verses, One of which was writ by Sir Aston Cockain. For the Play, 'tis founded on the History of Theodosius the Younger. See Socrates L. 7. Theodoret L. 5. Nicephorus L. 14. Baronius, Godeau, &c.
Fatal Dowry, a Tragedy often acted at the private House in Black-friars, by His Majesties Servants, printed 4to. Lond. 1632. This Play was writ by our Author and Mr. Nathaniel Field (of whom I have already spoken). The behaviour of Charalois in voluntarily choosing imprisonment to ransom his Fathers Corps, that it might receive Funeral Rights; is copied from the Athenian Cymon, that admirable Example of Piety so much celebrated by Valerius Maximus, Lib. 5. C. 4. Ex. 9. Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos notwithstanding make it a forc'd Action, and not voluntary.
Guardian, a Comical History often acted at the private House in Black-fryars by his late Majesties Servants, with great Applause, printed 8vo. Lond. 1655. Severino's cutting off Calipso's Nose in the dark, taking her for his Wife Jolantre, is borrow'd from the Cimerian Matron a Romance 8vo. The like Story is related in Boccace Day 8. Nov. 7.
Great Duke of Florence, a Comical History often presented with good allowance by her Majesties Servants at the Phoenix in Drury-lane, printed 4to. Lond. 1636. and dedicated to the truly Honoured and his noble Favourer, Sir Robert Wiseman of Thorrel's-Hall in Essex. This Play is commended by two Copies of Verses, One of which was writ by Mr. John Ford, of whom we have already spoken p. 219. The false Character given the Duke of the Beauty of Lidia, by Sanasarro, resembles the Story of King Edgar and Duke Ethelwolph in his Account of the Perfections of Alphreda. As the Reader may find the Story related in our English Chronicles that have writ the Reign of Edgar, as Speed, Stow, Baker, &c.
Maid of Honour, a Tragi-comedy often presented with good allowance, at the Phoenix in Drury-lane, by the Queen's Majesties Servants, printed 4to. Lond. 1632. and dedicated to his most Honoured Friends, Sir Francis Foliambe, and Sir Thomas Bland. A Copy of Verses is prefixt to the Play, writ by Sir Aston Cokain.
New way to pay Old Debts, a Comedy often acted at the Phoenix in Drury-lane, by the Queens Majesties Servants, printed 4to. Lond. 1633. and dedicated to the Right Honourable Robert Earl of Carnarvan. This Play is deservedly commended by the Pens of Sir Henry Moody, and Sir Thomas Jay, above-mention'd.
Old Law, or A new Way to please you, an excellent Comedy acted before the King and Queen at Salisbury-house, and at several other places with great applause, printed 4to. Lond. 1656. In this Play our Author was assisted by Mr. Middleton, and Mr. Rowley. At the End of it is printed a Catalogue of Plays, which tho' stil'd perfect in the Title-page, is far from it: for besides abundance of Typographical Faults, there are many other gross Errors: several pieces being mention'd under the Title of Plays which are of a different Species; for Instance Virgil's Eclogues are inserted under the Name of a Tragedy &c.
Picture, a Tragi-comedy, often presented with good allowance at the Globe and Black-Fryars Play-houses, by the King's Majesties Servants, printed 4to. Lond. 1636. and dedicated to his Honour'd, and Selected Friends of the Noble Society of the Inner-Temple. This Play was acted by those excellent Players of the last Age, Lowin, Taylor, Benfield, &c. and is commended by his true Friend, Sir Thomas Jay. The Plot of Sophia's decoying the two debaucht Courtiers Richardo and Ubaldo, who attempted her Chastity, is related in a Book of Novels in octavo, call'd The Fortunate, Deceiv'd, and Unfortunate Lovers, see Nov. 4. of the Deceiv'd Lovers: but this Story is I suppose originally Italian, this Book being a Collection from Italian Novels.
Renegado, a Tragi-comedy often acted by the Queens Majesties Servants, at the private Play-house in Drury-lane, printed 4to. Lond. 1630. and dedicated to the Right Honourable George Harding, Baron of Barkley of Barkley-Castle, and Knight of the Honourable Order of the Bath. This Play is likewise commended by two Copies of Verses; One of which was writ by Mr. James Shirley.
Roman Actor, a Tragedy acted divers times with good allowance at the private House in the Black-fryars, by the King's Majesties Servants, printed 4to. 1629. and dedicated to his much Honour'd, and most True Friends, Sir Philip Knivet, Sir Thomas Jay, and Thomas Bellingham of Newtimber in Sussex Esquire. This Play is commended by Six Copies of Verses writ by several Dramatick Poets of that Age, as May, Goss, Ford, &c. For the Plot read Suetonius in the Life of Domitian, Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, Lib. 7. Tacitus, Lib. 13. &c.
Very Woman, or The Prince of Tarent, a Tragi-comedy often acted at the private House in the Black-fryars, by His late Majesties Servants with great applause, printed 8vo. Lond. 1655. Our Author owns this Play to be founded on a Subject which long before appear'd on the Stage: tho' what Play it was I know not. I have already acquainted the Reader with the Resemblance between the Plot of this Tragi-comedy, and The Obstinate Lady. This Play, with The Bashful Lover, and The Guardian, are printed together.
Virgin Martyr, a Tragedy acted by His Majesties Servants with great applause, printed 4to. Lond. 1661. In this Play our Author took in Mr. Thomas Decker for Partner. I presume the Story may be met with in the Martyrologies which have treated of the Tenth Persecution in the time of Dioclesian, and Maximian. See Rossweidus, Valesius, &c.
Unnatural Combat, a Tragedy presented by the King's Majesties Servants at the Globe, printed 4to. Lond. 1639. and dedicated to his much Honour'd Friend, Anthony Sentliger of Oukham in Kent, Esquire. "This Old Tragedy (as the Author tells his Patron) has neither Prologue nor Epilogue, it being composed in a time, when such By-ornaments, were not advanced above the Fabrick of the whole work."
I know nothing else of our Authors Writings, and therefore must hasten to the last Act of his Life, his Death; which happen'd at London in March 1669. On the Seventeenth of the same Month he was Buried in St. Mary Overies Church in Southwark, in the same Grave with Mr. Fletcher. What Monument, or Inscription he has I know not; but shall close up our Account of this Ingenious Poet, with the following Epitaph writ by Sir Aston Cokain [author's note: Epigrams, L. 1. Ep. 100.],
EPITAPH ON MR. JOHN FLETCHER AND MR. PHILIP MASSINGER, WHO LAY BOTH BURIED IN ONE GRAVE, IN ST. MARY OVERY'S CHURCH, IN SOUTH WARK.
In the same Grave Fletcher was buried, here
Lies the Stage Poet, Philip Massinger:
Plays they did write together, were great Friends,
And now one Grave includes them in their Ends.
So whom on Earth nothing did part, beneath
Here (in then Fame) they lie, in spight of Death.