Ben Jonson and the Roman Frame of Mind

Ben Jonson and the Roman Frame of Mind

Katharine Eisaman Maus
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 222
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  • Book Info
    Ben Jonson and the Roman Frame of Mind
    Book Description:

    Katharine Maus explores the biographical reasons for Jonson's preference for particular Latin authors; the effects of Roman moral and psychological paradigms on his methods of characterization and generic choices; the connection between his critical theory and artistic practice; and the impact of Roman social theory on his portrayal of communities and on his peculiar relationship with his audiences.

    Originally published in 1985.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5486-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. I Introduction: Jonson’s Classics
    (pp. 3-21)

    Ben Jonson is a “classical” artist: “not onely a professed Imitator ofHorace,” as Dryden says, “but a learned Plagiary of all the others; you track him every where in their Snow.”¹ “All the others” is really an overstatement; for while Jonson’s reading in Greek and Latin literature is remarkably varied and wide-ranging, certain texts inevitably attract him more than others. His favorite authors are Latin ones, and a select group of Latin ones at that: Seneca, Horace, Tacitus, Cicero, Juvenal, Quintilian, and a few others. These are the writers he continually quotes and paraphrases, recommends to friends and readers,...

  5. II Virtue and Vice: Characterization in the Early Plays
    (pp. 22-46)

    Some time before Jonson gained his reputation as the most “classical” of English dramatists, his contemporaries had already remarked upon his distinctive methods of dramatic characterization. “Monsieur Humourist,” John Weever calls him inThe Whipping of the SatyreInSatiro-Mastix, Thomas Dekker imagines members of the theater audience pointing Jonson out to their friends—“That’s he, that’s he, that pennes and purges Humours and diseases.”¹ Restoration critics and dramatists are likewise struck by Jonson’s characterization John Oldham marvels at Jonson’s “universal vast Idea of Mankind,” and Thomas Shadwell praises him as “the onely person that appears to me to have...

  6. III Profit, Delight, and Imitation: Theory and Practice in the Middle Comedies
    (pp. 47-76)

    When Mitis, inEvery Man Out of His Humour, suggests that some members of the audience might have preferred a romantic comedy to a satiric one, Cordatus replies,

    I would faine heare one of theseautumne-judgements define once,Quid sit Comoedia?if he cannot, let him content himselfe with CICEROS definition . . who would have aComoedieto beImitatio vitae, Speculum consuetudinis, Imago veritatis; a thing throughout pleasant, and ridiculous, and accommodated to the correction of manners. (¹

    The identical formula will echo through Jonson’s prefaces, prologues, and critical remarks for the rest of his life; comedy—and...

  7. IV Roman Moral Psychology and Jonson’s Dramatic Forms
    (pp. 77-110)

    Early in his career as a dramatist, Ben Jonson informs his audience that his play will not make “a duke to bee in love with a countesse, and that countesse to be in love with the dukes sonne, and the sonne to love the ladies waiting maid: some such crosse wooing, with a clowne to their servingman.”¹ For much of his career, Jonson refuses to provide the kind of theater that the Elizabethan audience would have expected, and that Northrop Frye has taught modern readers to regard as quintessentially comic—plays in which young lovers overcome the arbitrary resistance of...

  8. V Jonson and the Roman Social Ethos
    (pp. 111-150)

    Ben Jonson conceives of the poet’s role as one of public service. InDiscoverieshe repeats Aristotle’s claim that poetry “dispose[s] us to all Civill Offices of Society” (2388), and in the prefatory epistle toVolponehe calls the poet “a master in manners” who “can alone (or with a few) effect the businesse of man-kind” (29-30). As many critics have noted, Jonson prefers to work in genres that deal explicitly with social issues or social relations: the epigram, epistle, comedy, and masque.¹ Tragedy, in his hands, dramatizes the possibility of certain kinds of political action in a corrupt or...

  9. VI The Late Jonson
    (pp. 151-168)

    When in 1629, a few years before his death, Jonson writes his first romantic comedy,The New Inn, he departs from the characteristic modes both of the comical satires, and of the great plays of midcareer. Courtship and marriage, conceived primarily in erotic and not financial terms, provide the focus of the main plot. The miraculous rediscovery of misplaced family members plays a similarly prominent role. And as Anne Barton observes: “InThe New Inn, Jonson jettisoned another long-standing artistic habit. He replaced the old … essential names associated with his earlier comedies … by a nomenclature more mixed, flexible,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 169-204)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 205-212)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-213)