is very different. Camiola’s remarks on the limitations of the royal prerogative (Maid of Honour, act iv. sc. v.) could hardly be acceptable at court.
Massinger died suddenly at his house near the Globe theatre, and was buried in the churchyard of St Saviour’s, Southwark, on the 18th of March 1640. In the entry in the parish register he is described as a “stranger,” which, however, implies nothing more than that he belonged to another parish.
The supposition that Massinger was a Roman Catholic rests upon three of his plays, The Virgin Martyr (licensed 1620), The Renegado (licensed 1624) and The Maid of Honour (c. 1621). The religious sentiment is certainly such as would obviously best appeal to an audience sympathetic to Roman Catholic doctrine. The Virgin Martyr, in which Dekker probably had a large share, is really a miracle play, dealing with the martyrdom of Dorothea in the time of Diocletian, and the supernatural element is freely used. Little stress can be laid on this performance as elucidating Massinger’s views. It is not entirely his work, and the story is early Christian, not Roman Catholic. In The Renegado, however, the action is dominated by the beneficent influence of a Jesuit priest, Francisco, and the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is enforced. In The Maid of Honour a complicated situation is solved by the decision of the heroine, Camiola, to take the veil. For this she is held up “to all posterity a fair example for noble maids to imitate.” Among all Massinger’s heroines Camiola is distinguished by genuine purity and heroism.
His plays have generally an obvious moral intention. He sets himself to work out a series of ethical problems through a succession of ingenious and effective plots. In the art of construction he has, indeed, few rivals. But the virtue of his heroes and heroines is rather morbid than natural, and often singularly divorced from common-sense. His dramatis personae are in general types rather than living persons, and their actions do not appear to spring inevitably from their characters, but rather from the exigencies of the plot. The heroes are too good, and the villains too wicked to be quite convincing. Moreover their respective goodness and villainy are too often represented as extraneous to themselves. This defect of characterization shows that English drama had already begun to decline.
It seems doubtful whether Massinger was ever a popular playwright, for the best qualities of his plays would appeal rather to politicians and moralists than to the ordinary playgoer. He contributed, however, at least one great and popular character to the English stage. Sir Giles Overreach, in A New Way to Pay Old Debts, is a sort of commercial Richard III., a compound of the lion and the fox, and the part provides many opportunities for a great actor. He made another considerable contribution to the comedy of manners in The City Madam. In Massinger’s own judgment The Roman Actor was “the most perfect birth of his Minerva.” It is a study of the tyrant Domitian, and of the results of despotic rule on the despot himself and his court. Other favourable examples of his grave and restrained art are The Duke of Milan, The Bondman and The Great Duke of Florence.
Massinger was a student and follower of Shakespeare. The form of his verse, especially in the number of run-on lines, approximates in some respects to Shakespeare’s later manner. He is rhetorical and picturesque, but rarely rises to extraordinary felicity. His verse is never mean, but it sometimes comes perilously near to prose, and in dealing with passionate situations it lacks fire and directness.
The plays attributed to Massinger alone are: The Duke of Milan, a Tragedy (c. 1618, pr. 1623 and 1638); The Unnatural Combat, a Tragedy (c. 1619, pr. 1639); The Bondman, an Antient Storie (licensed 1623, pr. 1624); The Renegado, a Tragaecomedie (lic. 1624, pr. 1630); The Parliament of Love (lic. 1624; ascribed, no doubt erroneously, in the Stationers’ Register, 1660, to W. Rowley; first printed by Gifford from an imperfect MS. in 1805); A New Way to Pay Old Debts, a Comoedie (c. 1625, pr. 1632); The Roman Actor. A Tragaedie (lic. 1626, pr. 1629); The Maid of Honour (dating perhaps from 1621, pr. 1632); The Picture, a Tragecomedie (lic. 1629, pr. 1630); The Great Duke of Florence, a Comicall Historie (lic. 1627, pr. 1635); The Emperor of the East, a Tragaecomoedie (lic. and pr. 1631), founded on the story of Theodosius the Younger; Believe as You List (rejected by the censor in January, but licensed in May, 1631; pr. 1848–1849 for the Percy Society); The City Madam, a Comedie (lic. 1632, pr. 1658), which Mr Fleay (Biog. Chron. of the Eng. Drama, i. 226), however, considers to be a rifaciamento of an older play, probably by Jonson; The Guardian (lic. 1633, pr. 1655); and The Bashful Lover (lic. 1636, pr. 1655). A Very Woman, or The Prince of Tarent, licensed in 1634 as the work of Massinger alone, is generally referred to his collaboration with Fletcher. The “exquisite temperance and justice” of this piece are, according to Swinburne, foreign to Fletcher’s genius, and afford a striking example of Massinger’s artistic skill and moderation.
Twelve plays of Massinger are said to be lost, but the titles of some of these may be duplicates of those of existing plays. Five of these lost plays were MSS. used by John Warburton’s cook for pie-covers. The numerous plays in which Massinger’s co-operation with John Fletcher is generally assumed are dealt with under Beaumont and Fletcher. But it may be here noted that Mr R. Boyle has constructed an ingenious case for the joint authorship by Fletcher and Massinger of the two “Shakespearian” plays, Henry VIII. and Two Noble Kinsmen (see the New Shakspere Society’s Transactions, 1884 and 1882). Mr Boyle sees the touch of Massinger in the first two acts of the Second Maiden’s Tragedy (Lansdowne MS., lic. 1611), a play with which the names of Fletcher and Tourneur are also associated by different critics. The Fatall Dowry, a Tragedy (c. 1619, pr. 1632), which was adapted without acknowledgment by Nicholas Rowe in his Fair Penitent, was written in conjunction with Nathaniel Field; and The Virgin Martir, a Tragedie (lic. 1620, pr. 1621), with Thomas Dekker.
Massinger’s independent works were collected by Coxeter (4 vols., 1759, revised edition with introduction by Thomas Davies, 1779), by J. Monck Mason (4 vols., 1779), by William Gifford (4 vols., 1805, 1813), by Hartley Coleridge (1840), by Lieut.-Colonel Cunningham (1867), and selections by Mr Arthur Symons in the Mermaid Series (1887–1889). Gifford’s remains the standard edition, and formed the basis of Cunningham’s text. It contains “An Essay on the Dramatic Writings of Massinger” by Dr John Ferriar.
Massinger has been the object of a good deal of criticism. A metrical examination of the plays in which Massinger was concerned is given in Englische Studien (Halle, v. 74, vii. 66, viii. 39, ix. 209 and x. 383), by Mr R. Boyle, who also contributed the life of the poet in the Dictionary of National Biography. The sources of his plays are dealt with by E. Koeppel in Quellen Studien zu den Dramen Chapman’s, Massinger’s und Ford’s (Strassburg, 1897). For detailed criticism, beside the introductions to the editions quoted, see A. W. Ward, Hist. of Eng. Dram. Lit. (1899), iii. 1-47, and F. G. Fleay, Biog. Chron. of the Eng. Drama (1891), under Fletcher; a general estimate of Massinger, dealing especially with his moral standpoint, is given in Sir Leslie Stephen’s Hours in a Library (3rd series, 1879); Swinburne, in the Fortnightly Review (July 1889), while acknowledging the justice of Sir L. Stephen’s main strictures, found much to say in praise of the poet.
MASSINISSA (c. 238–149 B.C.), king of Massylian or eastern Numidia. He was educated, like many of the Numidian chiefs, at Carthage, learnt Latin and Greek, and was an accomplished as well as a naturally clever man. Although his kingdom was nominally independent of Carthage, it really stood to it in a relation of vassalage; it was directly under Carthaginian influences, and was imbued to a very considerable extent with Carthaginian civilization. It was to this that Massinissa owed his fame and success; he was a barbarian at heart, but he had a varnish of culture, and to this he added the craft and cunning in which Carthaginian statesmen were supposed to excel. While yet a young man (212) he forced his neighbour Syphax, prince of western Numidia, who had recently entered into an alliance with Rome, to fly to the Moors in the extreme west of Africa. Soon afterwards he appeared in Spain, fighting for Carthage with a large force of Numidian cavalry against the Romans under the two Scipios. The defeat of the Carthaginian army in 206 led him to cast in his lot with Rome. Scipio Africanus is said to have cultivated his friendship. Massinissa now quitted Spain for a while for Africa, and was again engaged in a war with Syphax in which he was decidedly worsted. Scipio’s arrival in Africa in 204 gave him another chance, and no sooner had he joined the Roman general than he crushed his old enemy Syphax, and captured his capital Cirta (Constantine). Here occurs the romantic story of Sophonisba, daughter of the Carthaginian Hasdrubal, who had been promised in marriage to Massinissa, but had subsequently become the wife of Syphax. Massinissa, according to the story, married Sophonisba immediately after his victory, but was required by Scipio to dismiss her as a Carthaginian, and consequently an enemy to Rome.