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Sir Martin Mar-all, or The Feign'd Innocence is an English Restoration comedy, first performed on 15 August 1667.[1] Written by John Dryden and based on a translation of L'Étourdi by Molière,[2] it was one of Dryden's earliest comedies, and also one of the greatest theatrical successes of his career.

The play's 1666 entry into the Stationers' Register assigned it to William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle. John Downes, in his Roscius Anglicanus (1708), maintained that Newcastle executed "a bare translation" of Molière's play, which was revised and adapted by Dryden.[3] The play was first published in quarto in 1668, in an anonymous volume, which was re-issued in 1678; a third edition in 1691 carried Dryden's name, and the play was included in the 1695 edition of Dryden's collected works.

The initial production of the play was a huge success; it ran for thirty-two performances and was acted four times at Court. Samuel Pepys saw the play seven times, and called it "the most entire piece of mirth...that certainly was ever writ."[4] According to Downes, the play made "more money than any preceding comedy" at the Duke of York's Theatre. Sir Martin Mar-all was referenced by other poets for the foolishness of the title character, who, in order to impress his mistress Millicent, mimes playing a lute and lip-syncs while another character makes music from within. Of course, he continues lip-syncing and strumming his quiet lute after the true player ceases to make any sounds and exposes himself as a fraud. The original Dorset Garden Theatre cast included James Nokes as Sir Martin Marall, William Smith as Sir John Swallow, John Young as Lord Dartmouth, Cave Underhill as Old Moody and Henry Harris as Warner.[5]

In addition to Newcastle's translation of Molière, Dryden also adapted material from L'Amant Indiscrit by Philippe Quinault, from the Francion of Charles Sorel, and from The Antiquary by Shackerley Marmion.[6]


  1. ^ The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 15 August 1667
  2. ^ Brooks, Harold F. (April 1948). "Molière et la comedie de moeurs en Angleterre (1660-1668) by Andre de Mandach". The Review of English Studies. 24 (94). Oxford University Press: 159–160. doi:10.1093/res/os-XXIV.94.159. JSTOR 509947.
  3. ^ Perry, Henry Ten Eyck. The First Duchess of Newcastle and Her Husband as Figures in Literary History. Boston, Ginn and Co., 1918; p. 150.
  4. ^ Perry, p. 151.
  5. ^ * Van Lennep, W. The London Stage, 1660-1800: Volume One, 1660-1700. Southern Illinois University Press, 1960. p.111
  6. ^ Allen, Ned Bliss. The Sources of John Dryden's Comedies. Ann Arbor, MI, University of Michigan Press, 1935.

5 Annotations

First Reading

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Dryden, John, 1631-1700.

Sir Martin Mar-all, or the feign’d innocence: a comedy· As it was acted at His Highnesse the Duke of York’s Theatre.
London : printed for H. Herringman, at the sign of the Blew Anchor in the lower walk of the New Exchange, 1668.

4to., [6], 10, 13-58, 57-70 p.
Text appears continuous despite register and pagination.
Wing (2nd ed., 1994), D2359; MacDonald, H. John Dryden, 71a

Adapted by Dryden from the Duke of Newcastle’s translation of Molière’s "L’étourdi" and Quinault’s "L’amant indiscret".

Corrected reprint, second edition, 1668, reprinted 1669, 78, 91, 97.
No copy of any separate edition in the PL

nix  •  Link

"Of course, he continues lip-syncing and strumming his quiet lute after the true player ceases to make any sounds and exposes himself as a fraud." --

Cyrano, anyone?

Or Singin' in the Rain?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Sir Martin Mar-all, or The Feign'd Innocence, an adaptation of Moliere's L'Etourdi, which was entered on the books of the Stationers' Company as the production of the Duke of Newcastle, was published in 1668. Downes says (Roscius Anglicanus, p. 28) : "The Duke of Newcastle giving Mr. Dryden a bare Translation of it, out of a Comedy of the Famous French Poet Monsieur Moleiro; he Adapted the Part purposely for the Mouth of Mr. Nokes, curiously Polishing the Whole. . . . This and Love in a Tub got the Company more Money than any preceding Comedy." The part of Sir Martin was taken by Nokes ; Harris was Warner; Smith, Sir John Swallow; Young, Lord Dartmouth ; and Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Millicent. Downes makes the further statement that the Dorset Gardens theatre was opened November 9, 1671, with Sir Martin Mar-all "notwithstanding it had been Acted 30 Days before in Lincolns-Inn Fields, and above 4 times at Court." Langbaine and later dramatic historians ascribe this play to Dryden.…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.




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