Jonson's next play, Cynthias Revels, was first acted in the year 1600. It evidently enjoyed some success on the stage, if we are to believe the advertisement, on the title-page of the quarto, announcing that "it hath beene sundry times privately acted in the Black-Friers by the Children of her Majesties Chappell." Jonson called this play, also, a "Comicall Satyre," thus announcing it as his second conscious attempt to construct a successful dramatic equivalent of formal satire. In composing it he paid as little heed to the classical rules and the conventions of pure comedy as he had done in Every Man Out of His Humor. But he tried to make Cynthias Revels more entertaining for the fashionable audiences of Blackfriars Theatre than his first comical satire had proved to be.
It, too, begins with an induction, which, however, is quite unlike that of Every Man Out of His Humor. Three child actors come on in their own persons. One of them, in spite of the opposition of the other two, manages to give a hurried outline of the plot. The boys then amuse themselves by mimicking the affectations of the ladies and gentlemen in the audience. They single out for particular attack the self-important, censorious sort of spectator who loves to lecture the author for the stale wit and sly obscenity which he assumes will defile the awaited play. Only when the boys have finished these satiric preliminaries does "Prologos" have a chance to make himself heard. He then flatters his particular audience even while he asserts his originality and independence of popular applause. He explains:
In this alone, his Muse her sweetnesse hath, She shuns the print of any beaten path; And prooves new wayes to come to learned eares.
Hence his play
. . . . . . . affoords, Words above Action: matter, above wordes.1
The Fountaine of Selfe-Love. Or Cynthias Revels. As it hath beene sundry times privately acted in the Black-Friers by the Children of her Majesties Chappell. Written by Ben: Johnson ( London, 1601), sig. B. My discussion of the play is based on this quarto version -- a much shorter one than that which later appeared in the
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Comicall Satyre and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. Contributors: Oscar James Campbell - Author. Publisher: Adcraft Press. Place of publication: San Marino, CA. Publication year: 1938. Page number: 82.
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