Feigning commonwealths? : Ben Jonson and republicanism
This thesis examines the various operations of notions of republicanism in the Jonsonian canon, in particular within his dramatic compositions. Taking "republicanism" as a term to refer to groups of often contrasting and conflicting ideologies, it examines the direct influence of Renaissance Humanism's interest in republican history and constitutions upon Ben Jonson's work, looking at the role of Ancient Rome (in its incarnation both as Empire and Republic) and early modern Venice and Florence in a number of his plays. It also considers the influence of republicanism as a linguistic programme, deriving often from a number of European conflicts against the dominant authorities, and disseminated through the potentially democratizing print culture that was emerging in the early seventeenth century. Republicanism is seen to shade into notions of community and the communal, and also to disperse and displace comfortable concepts of the same. This is seen to carry a special valency in Jonson's later plays, although it is an issue that also figures in the texts that precede them. In placing a particular focus on Jonson's less-discussed drama, the thesis seeks to reassess his canon, avoiding any simplistic developmental reading of his career and, in subverting a strictly chronological approach, reclaiming individual texts for more precise and contextualized understandings - on a political, sociological, and gendered level. The interest In the local in Jonsonian drama requests a Similarly localized reading of the play-texts. By concentrating upon Jonson's plays, the thesis also uncovers a registration within them of the inherent republicanism of the dramatic genre. Jonson recognizes this in his continued interest in the role of audiences in the production of meanings. He examines both the operations and the breakdowns of contractual agreements in society at large and in the theatrical situation, confirming that the authority of the author or monarch can never be absolute.