Ben Jonson, 'Volpone' and the Gunpowder Plot

Ben Jonson, 'Volpone' and the Gunpowder Plot

by Richard Dutton


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Ben Jonson's Volpone is the most widely taught and commonly performed English Renaissance play outside of Shakespeare. However, the dramatic circumstances of its writing are little known. Jonson wrote the play very shortly after the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, an event in which he was personally involved. This book argues that the play alludes to the plot as openly as censorship will allow, using the traditional form of the beast fable. As a Roman Catholic himself, Jonson shared in the repression suffered by his co-religionists in the wake of the Plot, and the play fiercely satirizes the man they chiefly blamed for this, Robert Cecil. The elaborate format which Jonson devised for the 1607 edition of Volpone, with a dedication, Epistle and numerous commendatory poems, is reproduced here photographically, allowing the reader to appreciate Jonson's covert meanings and to approach the text as those in 1607 might have done.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521879545
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2008
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Richard Dutton is Humanities Distinguished Professor of English at Ohio State University.

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Jonson's life and the Epistle to Volpone; 2. Commendatory verses and 'metempsychosis'; 3. 'Sir Pol': dating, identification and satiric method; 4. Volpone and beast fable; 5. Volpone's Venice; 6. Patronage, plotting, and diabolic possession in the 'main-' and 'bye-plots'; Conclusions and aftermath.

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