The Accidence of Ben Jonson's Plays, Masques, and Entertainments: With an Appendix of Comparable Uses in Shakespeare

The Accidence of Ben Jonson's Plays, Masques, and Entertainments: With an Appendix of Comparable Uses in Shakespeare

The Accidence of Ben Jonson's Plays, Masques, and Entertainments: With an Appendix of Comparable Uses in Shakespeare

The Accidence of Ben Jonson's Plays, Masques, and Entertainments: With an Appendix of Comparable Uses in Shakespeare

Excerpt

The object of this study is to give an historical account of the morphology of Ben Jonson's plays, masques and entertainments. A definitive edition of these works is now available in the first seven volumes of Herford and Simpson Ben Jonson, and in it there are numerous forms of words which strike the modern reader as unusual. It is mainly these that I have selected for treatment and explanation. Similar work was done for Shakespeare by E. A. Abbott in his Shakespearian Grammar; subsequently, and more thoroughly, by W. Franz in his Shakespeare-Grammatik.

By 'definitive' one means an edition which presents a critical text, and which gives due consideration, inter alia, to the orthography, punctuation and writing conventions of the time. Accurate investigation into the accidence of an author is almost impossible until some scholar or scholars have undertaken this delicate and difficult preparation.

The choice of Jonson as the subject of linguistic investigation needs little comment. By his contemporaries he was regarded as an accomplished scholar and a considerable dramatist. Though his reputation has suffered some vicissitudes, there can be no question of Jonson's importance as an influence in the development of the English language at a critical period, and of the effect of that influence in directing English literature into channels that critics, for the sake of convenience, generally label 'classic'.

Jonson was also a grammarian, or at least a grammatical archivist, for his library was the repository of any grammar, new or old, which he could lay hands upon. His merits as a student of grammar, though he was frankly an amateur, are not to be judged by the scant, often naïve, notes which survived the destruction of his library by fire. His original researches were certainly lost, and the brief sketch which survives is of little moment, save as an indication of the value which Jonson himself attached to the subject.

The dramatic work of Ben Jonson is the more valuable because of his practical attitude to the problems of language. In his plays, masques and entertainments he treated linguistic foibles . . .

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