JOHN MARSTON, an English dramatic author, who lived in the time of James I. and wrote eight plays. Wood says, "that he was a student in Corpus-Christi college, Oxford; but where he was born, or from what family descended, is not known." When he left Oxford, he was entered of the Middle Temple, of which society he was chosen lecturer in the 34th of Elizabeth; but much more of his personal history is not known. He lived in friendship with Ben Jonson, as appears by his addressing to him his "Malecontent," a tragi-comedy, in 1604; yet we find him afterwards glancing with some severity at Jonson, on account of his "Catiline and Sejanus," in his "Epistle" prefixed to "Sophonisba," another tragedy. "Know," says he, "that I have not laboured in this poem, to relate any thing as an historian, but to enlarge every thing as a poet. To transcribe authors, quote authorities, and to translate Latin prose orations into English blank verse, hath in this subject been the least aim of my studies." Langbaine observes, and with good reason, "that none, who are acquainted with the works of Ben Jonson, can doubt that he is meant here, if they will compare the orations in Sallust with those in his Cataline." Jonson appears to have quarrelled with him and Decker, and is supposed to have ridiculed both in his "Poetaster."
Marston contributed eight plays to the stage, which were all acted at the Black-Friars with applause; and one of them, called "The Dutch Courtezan," was once revived since the restoration, under the title of "The Revenge, or a Match in Newgate." In 1633, six of this author's plays were collected, and published in one volume, dedicated to the lady viscountess Falkland. Besides his dramatic poetry, he wrote three books of satires, entitled, "The Scourge of Villainy," which were printed at London in 1599, and reprinted in 1764, by the rev. John Bowle. We have no account when Marston died; but he was certainly living in 1633. As a specimen of his poetry, Mr. Dodsley has republished the "Malecontent," in his Collection of Old English Plays, vol. IV. Marston was a chaste and pure writer, avoiding all that obscenity, ribaldry, and scurrility which too many of the playwrights of that time, and much more so in periods since, have made the basis of their wit, to the great disgrace of the age. He abhorred such writers, and their works, and pursued so opposite a practice in his performances, that "whatsoever even in the spring of his years, he presented upon the public and private theatre, in his autumn and declining age he needed not be ashamed of."