‘Satyres, That Girde and Fart at the Time’: Poetaster and the Essex Rebellion

  • Tom Cain


There has developed in recent years something approaching a consensus that Jonson’s work celebrates an absolutist political ideology. He has been seen as a fairly straightforward spokesman for absolutism in the masques and the poetry of praise, and a more oblique one in such matters as the exultation of monarchy of mind over appetite in many of his plays and poems. In his prescriptive attitudes to language and art, and even in the patriarchal marshalling of his followers as ‘Sons’, or as a ‘Tribe’ with him at its head, he seems actively to embrace absolutist attitudes, rather than to be drawn unwillingly into the dominant discourse of power.1


Secret Message Privy Council Prescriptive Attitude Loeb Classical Library Early Play 
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  1. 22.
    Norbert H. Platz, ‘Ben Jonson’s Ars Poetica: An Interpretation of Poetaster in its Historical Context’, Salzburg Studies in English Literature, XII (1973), p. 1.Google Scholar
  2. 23.
    See for example Oscar J. Campbell, Comical! Satyre and Shakespeare’s ‘Troilus and Cressida’ (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library Publications, 1938), pp. 109–34, esp. pp. 110–12;Google Scholar
  3. Arthur H. King, The Language of Satirized Characters in ‘Poetaster’ ( Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup; Williams & Norgate, 1941 ), pp. 59–60;Google Scholar
  4. Ralph W. Berringer, ‘Jonson’s Cynthia’s Revels and the War of the Theatres’, Philological Quarterly, XXII (1943), 1–22;Google Scholar
  5. E.W. Talbert, ‘The Purpose and Technique of Jonson’s Poetaster’, Studies in Philology, XLII (1945), 225–51;Google Scholar
  6. by Richard Dutton, Mastering the Revels: The Regulation and Censorship of English Renaissance Drama ( London: Macmillan, 1991 ), pp. 138–9.Google Scholar
  7. See also Dutton, ‘Ben Jonson and the Master of the Revels’, in Theatre and Government under the Early Stuarts, ed. by J.R. Mulryne and Margaret Shewring ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993 ), pp. 57–86.Google Scholar

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© Tom Cain 1998

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  • Tom Cain

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