The Satiric & the Didactic in Ben Jonson's Comedy

The Satiric & the Didactic in Ben Jonson's Comedy

The Satiric & the Didactic in Ben Jonson's Comedy

The Satiric & the Didactic in Ben Jonson's Comedy

Excerpt

The following study was begun as an attempt to discover the relation between the comedies of Ben Jonson and his many statements about what a comedy should be and should do. The first chapter is by way of a general summary of the critical theories and dramatic practices among Jonson's contemporaries, and the material is presented briefly. In the three following chapters, Jonson's work has been examined from several different points of view. In Chapter II, I have attempted to interpret his various and scattered expressions of his theory of didactic comedy. The point which here perhaps deserves most emphasis is that Jonson's standards for truth and goodness are intellectual and social rather than religious or more narrowly moral. In Chapter III, I have illustrated Jonson's treatment of some of the comic and satiric materials which were available to him in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, and discussed them both in relation to the historical background and in comparison with the treatment which they received by some of his fellow dramatists. Finally, in Chapter IV, I have traced the development of Jonson's comic technique--influenced as it always was by his belief in the high function of poetry--from The Case is Altered to Volpone, where first he achieved a perfect balance between comedy and satire. This chapter is almost entirely dramatic criticism and aims at making a contribution to the understanding of the six plays under review, more particularly of The Poetaster and Volpone. Throughout, however, I have made every effort to write a partial biography of Jonson as a working dramatist seeking to harmonize his theory and his medium.

I wish to acknowledge with gratitude my obligation to Professor Allan H. Gilbert of Duke University for his encourage-

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