Ben Jonson: Renaissance Dramatist by Sean McEvoy

By Sean McEvoy

In social gathering of its Silver Anniversary, the scholarly magazine Dance Research has invited a couple of extraordinary historian and associates to give a contribution essays on dance and its profound impact at the cultural and highbrow lifetime of the early smooth interval. members discover the natue of shape and the numerous hyperlinks among rhetoric, discourses on paintings and structure, and the language of dancing masters. The booklet argues for the centrality of dance to the human experience.

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Anne Barton has identified the crucial influence of the Greek comic dramatist Aristophanes in the development of Jonson’s comic writing at this point in his career (Barton : –). 5 Athenian tragedy was not narrowly didactic in   ,   inculcating a single moral, political or religious doctrine, but encouraged its audience to reflect upon their own moral and political preconceptions and fundamentally re-examine them. It was, Paul Cartledge writes, ‘genuinely a theatre of ideas, within a culture not the least remarkable attribute of which was a capacity to encompass the most radical critiques of social mores and cultural norms within a stable institutional framework’ (Cartledge : ).

Neither play had yet been translated into English. Count Ferneze of Milan is very concerned for the safety of the son on whom he dotes, Paulo, who is off to fight the French. Ferneze had lost his infant son Camillo when the French captured Vicenza, years before. Paulo is taken prisoner, but a French lord, Chamont, and his commoner friend, Gasper, are brought back as captives to Milan. Ferneze sends ‘Gasper’ off to effect an exchange of Chamont for Paulo, only to discover that Gasper has been impersonating the Lord.

It is not that they can make a detached political    ‒ SENJANUS ()  CATILINE ()  judgement from the stalls in a Brechtian way at moments like these; it is rather that being a character in the play and being an observer of it is to be part of the same game, part of the same moral enquiry. Overt theatrical contrivance works to destroy Sejanus. As with Sabinus, action which proclaims its play-in-the-worldness intervenes fatally on the characters of the world-in-the-play.

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