This excellent Poet, born at Salisbury, was Son of Mr. Philip Massinger, a Gentleman belonging to the Family of the Earl of Montgomery. In the Year 1602, being Eighteen Years of Age, he was sent to St. Alban-Hall in Oxford, where he remain'd a Student for Three or Four Years, and compleated his Education. He had a great deal of Modesty, and extraordinary Natural Parts; and the Purity of his Stile shews that he was a Man of Learning, as the Oeconomy of his Plots demonstrates that he was perfectly acquainted with the Methods of Dramatick Writing. He was very much belov'd by the Poets of that Age; and there were few but took it as an Honour to join with him in a Play. He writ sixteen Plays, viz.
I. The Roman Actor; a Tragedy, acted at the private House in the Black-Fryars by the King's Servants, 1629. Dedicated to Sir Philip Knives, Sir Thomas Jay, and Thomas Bellingham, Esq. This Play was acted with Applause, and is recommended by several Copies of Verses. The Plot is taken from Tacitus, Aurelius, Victor, and Suetonius in the Life of Domitian.
II. The Renegado; a Comedy, acted at the private Theatre in Drury-Lane, by her Majesty's Servants, 1630. Dedicated to the Right Honourable Geroge Harding, Baron of Berkley-Castle. Mr. Shirley and others sent the Author commendatory Verses on this Play.
III. The Maid of Honour; a Tragi-Comedy, acted by her Majesty's Servants at the Phoenix in Drury-Lane, 1632. Dedicated to Sir Francis Foliambe and Sir Thomas Bland. This Play was acted with Applause.
IV. The Emperor of the East; a Tragi-Comedy, acted at the Theatre in the Black-Fryars, 1632. Dedicated to the Right Honourable John Lord Mohun. Sir Aston Cockain wrote a Copy of Verses in Commendation of this Play. The Story from Socrates, lib. 7. Nicophorus, lib. 14. Baronius, &c.
V. The Fatal Dowry; a Tragedy, acted in the Black-Fryars, by his Majesty's Servants, 1632. This Play was often acted with Applause; and Mr. field assisted in the Composition. Charlois's Ransoming his Father, by his own Imprisonment, is taken from Cymon, in Val. Max. lib. 5. cap. 4. Ex. 9.
VI. A new Way to pay old Debts; a Comedy, often acted at the Phoenix in Drury-Lane, 1633. Dedicated to the Right Honourable Robert Earl of Caernarvon.
VII. The Picture; a Tragi-Comedy, acted in the Black-Fryars, 1636. Dedicated to the Society of the Inner-Temple. Plot from The Fortunate deceiv'd and Unfortunate Lovers, Nov. 4 of the Deceiv'd Lovers.
VIII. The Great Duke of Florence; a Comedy, presented at the Phoenix in Drury-Lane, 1636. Dedicated to Sir Robert Wiseman. This Play had very good Success. The Plot of it is taken from Speed, Stow, Baker, and other English Histories of the Reign of King Edgar.
IX. The Duke of Millan; a Tragedy, often acted at the Black-Fryars, 1638. Plot from Josephus's Hist. Jews, Book 15. chap. 4.
X. The Bondman; a Comedy, acted with Applause, at the Cockpit in Drury-Lane, 1638. Dedicated to Philip Earl of Montgomery. The reducing the Slaves by the Sight of the Whips, is taken from the Story of the Scythian Slaves, in Justin, lib. 1. cap. 5.
XI. The Unnatural Combat; a Tragedy, presented by his Majesty's Servants at the Globe, 1639. Dedicated to Anthony Sentliger, Esq. This Play has neither Prologue nor Epilogue.
XII. The Guardian; a Comedy, acted at the private House in the Black-Fryars with great Applause, 1655. Severino's cutting off Calipso's Nose in the dark, and taking her for his Wife Jolantre, is borrowed from Boccace's Novels, Day 8. Nov. 7. and from the Cimmerian Matron, a Romance.
XIII. The Bashful Lover; a Comedy, acted at the private House in Black-Fryars, 1655.
XIV. A very Woman, or The Prince of Tarent; a Tragi-Comedy, acted in the Black-Fryars with Applause, 1655. The Plot of this Play resembles that of the Obstinate Lady, writ by Sir Aston Cockain.
XV. The City Dame; a Comedy, acted at the private House in Black-Fryars, 1659. Dedicated to the Countess of Oxford. This was esteem'd a very good Play.
XVI. The Virgin Martyr; a Tragedy, acted with great Applause, 1661. Mr. Decker has a Share in the Writing of this Play. The Story is taken from Valesius, Roswedius, Eusebii Hist. Lib. 8. cap. 17.
He join'd with Middleton, Rowley and Fletcher in some of their Plays. A Poet that liv'd in the Time of Massinger, after he had commended his Plays, and his Writings in Verse and Prose, has these Two Lines:
His easy Pegasus will ramble o'er
Some Threescore Miles of Fancy in an Hour.
He died in the Year 1669, and was buried in St. Mary Overies Church in Southwark, in the same Grave wherein Mr. Fletcher had been before interr'd.