Ben Jonson pp 78-93 | Cite as

Learned Inventions

  • W. David Kay
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)

Abstract

At the same time that Sejanus and Eastward Ho provoked difficulties with the authorities, Jonson’s royal entertainments and masques — those festive shows combining poetic fable, scenic display and dancing by the nobility — won him favour and reward in the new Jacobean court. Jonson’s confidence in his skill as a masque writer is shown by his boast to Drummond ‘that next himself only Fletcher and Chapman could make a masque’ (Cony., 11. 43–4). In this genre as in others he achieved success by setting a new standard of competition for his rivals — a standard based on his conviction that even such ephemeral entertainments demanded the ingenious application of the poet’s learning in ways that would both honour and instruct their noble participants. His belief that the poet’s role was central to masque-making and that masques were an educative ritual for the masquers inevitably brought him into conflict with his artistic collaborators and the social realities of such occasions. Yet partly through force of personality and partly through skill at invention he established himself as the leading Jacobean masque writer. In the theatre, too, he gained a striking success with his comedy Volpone, or The Fox (1606), which pleased both popular and learned audiences in London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Keywords

Assure Assimilation Triad Sorting Defend 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Writing Women in Jacobean England (Cambridge, Mass., 1993) pp. 15–43; andGoogle Scholar
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  3. 3.
    Richard Dutton (ed.), Jacobean and Caroline Masques, Nottingham Drama Texts, vol. 1 (Nottingham, 1981) p. 4.Google Scholar
  4. For the background of their disagreement, see John Peacock, ‘Ben Jonson’s Masques and Italian Culture’, in J. R. Mulryne and Margaret Shewring (eds), Theatre of the English and Italian Renaissance (New York, 1991) pp. 73–93.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    See Stephen Orgel, The Illusion of Power: Political Theater in the English Renaissance (Berkeley, Calif., 1975).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    See Suzanne Gossett, “‘Man-maid, begone”: Women in Masques’, English Literary Renaissance, XVIII (1988) pp. 96–113;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  11. 13.
    See John C. Meagher, Method and Meaning in Jonson’s Masques (Notre Dame, Ind., 1966) pp. 57–124.Google Scholar
  12. 14.
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  13. 19.
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    See Anne Cline Kelly, ‘The Challenge of the Impossible: Ben Jonson’s Masque of Blackness’, College Language Association Journal, XX (1977) pp. 341–55.Google Scholar
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    See Linda Levy Peck, Court Patronage and Corruption in Early Stuart England (Boston, 1990) pp. 12–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 39.
    See John S. Weld, ‘Christian Comedy: Volpone’, Studies in Philology, LI (1954) pp. 172–93.Google Scholar
  18. 43.
    See Stephen J. Greenblatt, ‘The False Ending in Volpone’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, LXXV (1976) pp. 90–104.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© W. David Kay 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. David Kay
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUSA

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