Professor Martin Butler

Professor Martin Butler

Professor of English Renaissance Drama

+44(0) 113 343 4766

Summary: Summary: Early Modern English Literature, particularly Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Marston, the masque and court culture; textual editing and history of the book; performance and cinema adaptation.

Professor Martin Butler, MA, PhD (Cambridge), FBA

Research Interests

My work has focussed on early modern English literature, especially on the drama. My first book, Theatre and Crisis 1632-1642 (1984), explored the politics of the English stage in the pre-Civil War years. In subsequent essays I have written about Chapman, Webster, Middleton, Massinger, Brome, Shirley, Ford and others, and my 2008 monograph The Stuart Court Masque and Political Culture gives an overview of drama and political festivals at Whitehall under James I and Charles I. For the Revels Plays series I am editing Massinger's A New Way to Pay Old Debts, which in modern times is the single most frequently revived early modern play outside the Shakespeare canon. For the Oxford James Shirley project I am editing The Cardinal, which was the last major tragedy written before the playhouses were closed by onset of civil war. For the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, I was Associate Editor with responsibility for performing artists 1600-1700. I am also a member of the editorial board for the Oxford Edition of the Works of Thomas Nashe.

Ben Jonson has been a major strand within my work, culminating in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson (7 vols, 2012) for which, with Ian Donaldson (Cambridge) and David Bevington (Chicago), I was general editor. I also edited the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson Online (2014), a subscription website managed by Cambridge University Press which contains the whole print edition but also a huge archive of contextual material, old-spelling texts, and digital images of manuscripts and early printed books. The very substantial free-to-air components can be accessed at I am currently completing a critical study of Jonson as a writer and public intellectual, to be called Ben Jonson: Man of Letters (Oxford University Press).

My current long-term project is the Oxford Edition of the Works of John Marston, for which I am co-general editor with Professor Matthew Steggle (Sheffield Hallam). This will be the first ever complete critical edition of Marston, and will appear as a modern-spelling print text in four volumes with an online old-spelling text on the Oxford University Press OSEO website. Work on the edition is supported by a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Information about the project and our various activities can be found at

And then there's the Bard. I edited Cymbeline for the New Cambridge Shakespeare (2005; reprinted with revisions 2012), and The Tempest for Penguin (2007), and I have a special interest in Shakespeare on film. I have published on Olivier's Henry V and Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books, and for many years taught undergraduate and MA courses on this topic, and on the representation of early modern history in film and TV.

I welcome enquiries from prospective research students who are interested in working on Jonson, Shakespeare, Marston, and Renaissance drama, and on many areas of early modern literature in general. 

Recent Activities

January 2016: Hosted a conference on ‘Literary Attribution: John Marston and others’ at Birkbeck, University of London, as part of the launch events for the Oxford Edition of John Marston.

March 2016: Lecture tour of China, as part of a ‘Shakespeare 400’ collaboration between Leeds and the University of International Business and Economics (Beijing), and the British Council ‘Smart Talks’ series. I gave lectures and seminars on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Shakespeare on film at the University of International Business and Economics, Tsinghua University, and the Chinese Association of Shakespeare Studies (Beijing); Wellington International School and Nankai University (Tianjin), The Shanghai Theatre Academy, Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, and Fudan University (Shanghai); and Zhejiang University (Hangzhou).

April 2016: Paper on Jonson’s afterlife at the conference ‘Dare toTell: Silence and Saying in Ben Jonson’, University of St Andrews.

April 2016: Public lecture at Leeds on images of China in early modern English culture.

July 2016: Participated in a panel session on Justin Kurzel’s film of Macbeth (2015) at the International Medieval Conference in Leeds.

July 2016: Lecture at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, London, on Ben Jonson’s 1616 folio.

September 2016: with Jane Rickard, organised and hosted the two-day conference ‘Ben Jonson 1616-2016’ at the Huntington Library, California. Some of the papers can be accessed here:

November 2016: Lecture on portraits of Ben Jonson at Sheffield University conference on Jonson.

January 2017 Public lecture on Ben Jonson as part of the ‘Shakespeare 400’ celebrations at Leeds.


Renaissance Literature
Jacobean Drama 
Shakespeare’s History Plays


Turks, Moors and Jews: Racial Difference on the Early Modern Stage
The Renaissance on screen