New Perspectives on Ben Jonson
This collection of original essays illustrates the diversity of current scholarly approaches to Ben Jonson. In the opening essay, Jennifer Brady explores the complex position on literary influence that Jonson arrived at in his late prose work Discoveries. Anne Lake Prescott analyzes Jonson's use of Rabelais in his own works as well as Jonson's handwritten annotations in a copy of Rabelais's 1599 Oeuvres and shows that Jonson's Rabelais is not simply "Rabelaisian" in the usual modern sense. By documenting Jonson's debt to the Flemish humanist Justus Lipsius, Robert C. Evans illustrates the complex ways in which classical influence was mediated by humanist scholarship. George A. E. Parfitt demonstrates that, although Jonson's career was dominated by the effort to articulate enduring moral positives, these positives are constantly threatened, in his work, by Jonson's acute awareness of human frailty. James Hirsh argues that Volpone depicts a world so thoroughly foolish that a writer's attempt to cure foolishness would be futile and therefore foolish itself. Alexander Leggatt revisits the issue of the double plot in Volpone and finds that an emphasis on simple thematic parallels between the two plots distorts the dramatic significance of their relationship. As Kate D. Levin shows, conventional critical approaches have obscured both the structural peculiarities that Jonson's plays share with his masques and his occasional disregard of playhouse pragmatism. Carol P. Marsh-Lockett discusses aspects of Jacobean court politics that bear on Jonson's masque Pleasure Reconcild to Vertue. Bruce Thomas Boehrer places in the context of social history Jonson's long epigram "On the Famous Voyage," a mock-epic account of a journey through the waste-disposal system of London. Frances Teague challenges the common assumption that Jonson's later plays were failures. Ian Donaldson explores the interrelationships between the reputations of Shakespeare and Jonson.
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