Ben Jonson: A Literary Life by W. David Kay

By W. David Kay

This concise biography surveys Jonson's occupation and offers an advent to his works within the context of Jacobean politics, court docket patronage and his many literary rivalries. Stressing his wit and inventiveness, it explores the suggestions wherein he tried to take care of his independence from the stipulations of theatrical construction and from his buyers and introduces new proof that, regardless of his vaunted classicism, he time and again appropriated the problem or varieties of different English writers so one can exhibit his personal inventive superiority.

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Ben Jonson: A Literary Life

This concise biography surveys Jonson's occupation and offers an creation to his works within the context of Jacobean politics, courtroom patronage and his many literary rivalries. Stressing his wit and inventiveness, it explores the options through which he tried to take care of his independence from the stipulations of theatrical creation and from his buyers and introduces new proof that, regardless of his vaunted classicism, he many times appropriated the problem or kinds of different English writers so as to reveal his personal creative superiority.

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34 Ben Jonson The process of appropriation illustrated here is typical of Jonson's method in general; his poems, plays, and masques are full of passages from classical literature that have been 'Englished' in such a way that they speak directly to the conditions of his time. Modem readers who think of poets as spinning poetry out of their own insights tend to discount Jonson's art when they discover that much of his matter is adapted from Roman or Greek authors. Elizabethan and Jacobean writers, however, were less concerned with originality than with the skilful reworking of age-old themes.

The 'Epode' and the 'Ode Enthusiastic' were published in 1601 in Robert Chester's Love's Martyr as part of 'The Turtle and the Phoenix' poems dedicated to Sir John Salusbury; the 'Ode to Desmond' was not published in its entirety until after Jonson's death but must have been widely enough circulated in manuscript for Thomas Dekker's parody of it in Satiromastix (1601) to be effective (see Chapter 4). Jonson's vaunted classicism also seems to be alluded to in Drayton's 'To Himself and the Harp', the introductory ode in his Poems Lyric and Pastoral, which defends Drayton's right to compete in the form: 42 Ben Jonson And why not I, as he That's greatest, if as free, (In sundry strains that strive, Since there so many be) Th' old lyric kind revive?

The real dramatic climax is not the reunion of Rachel and Paulo, but the meeting of Count Ferneze (lamenting the loss of his son), Christophero (lamenting the loss of Rachel de Prie's love), and Jaques (lamenting the loss of his gold). 29). The Case Is Altered thus belongs with a sub-class of Elizabethan 'humour' comedies in which ·irrational behaviour is held up for ridicule. The dramatic seasons of 1597 and 1598 saw a sudden vogue for comedy of this sort, often combined with the presentation of distinctive verbal affectations.

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