A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Massinger, Philip

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Massinger, Philip (1583-1640). -- Dramatist, was probably b. at Salisbury. His f. appears to have been a retainer of the Earl of Pembroke, by whom and by Queen Elizabeth he was employed in a confidential capacity. M. was at Oxf., but quitted the Univ. suddenly without graduating. He is next found in London writing for the stage, frequently in collaboration with others. Few details of his life have come down, but it seems that he was on the whole unfortunate. He was found dead in bed on March 16, 1640, and was buried in St. Saviour's, Southwark, by some of the actors. The burial register has the entry, "buried Philip Massinger, a stranger." Of the many plays which he wrote or had a hand in, 15 believed to be entirely his are extant, other 8 were burned by a servant in the 18th century. He, however, collaborated so much with others -- Fletcher, Dekker, etc., that much fine work probably his can only be identified by internal evidence. Among his plays may be mentioned The Unnatural Combat (pr. 1639), The Virgin Martyr (1622) (partly by Dekker), which contains perhaps his finest writing. His best plays on the whole, however, are The City Madam (1632), and A New Way to pay Old Debts (pr. 1633), which latter kept the stage until the 19th century. He is believed to have joined with Fletcher and Shakespeare in Henry VIII. and The Two Noble Kinsmen. Other plays which he wrote or had a hand in are The Duke of Milan, The Bondman, The Renegado, The Roman Actor, The Great Duke of Florence, The Maid of Honour, The Picture, and The Fatal Dowry. His verse is fluent and sweet, and in his grave and reflective passages he rises to a rich and stately music. He often repeats himself, has little humour, and is not seldom coarse. He has, however, much skill in the construction and working out of a story.