chapter  5
Education and Autocracy in The Malcontent
Pages 23


In The Malcontent (1604), strategies similar to those utilised by Vindice for the management of the private household have been co-opted by the state and reapplied to the government of the nation.1 Altofront thus responds to the sort of prescriptions regarding state reform that are implicit in The Revenger’s Tragedy. By adopting practices aimed at good household management, in other words, Altofront adapts to emergent constructions of the private family and so appears to act in accord with purported national interest. Marston’s play thereby legitimises centralised authority, co-opting the private family by means of the same practices whereby the family sought, in The Revenger’s Tragedy, to sustain itself as an independent unit. In short, The Malcontent endorses “predisciplinary” modes of social organisation.2 What is more, the play makes explicit the “Machiavellian” potential of such strategies. Consequently, instead of examining the ethics or pragmatics of household management, the play interrogates the moral benefi ts and dangers associated with the adoption of covert surveillance as a policy of state. Ultimately, however, the play constructs Altofront’s adoption of such policies as legitimate, eff ective, benevolent and pious.