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Title: Language, power and identity in the drama of Ben Jonson
Author: Silver, Jeremy
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1986
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The thesis explores the relationships between language, power and identity in the drama of Ben Jonson. The approach is primarily through linguistic analyses of the plays, but frequent reference is made to other texts which illuminate the social, and cultural conditions out of which the drama emerges. The first three chapters deal, respectively, with Jonson's Humour plays, Poetaster, and both tragedies. Four subsequent chapters deal individually with Volpone, Epicoene, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair. Two final chapters deal with Jonson's late plays. The thesis analyses the way in which characters reflect on each other's' uses of language and make artificial use of language themselves in order to acquire power over others, raise their social status, and confirm, deny or alter their identities. This involves the analysis of the numerous discourses which are contained in the plays (e.g. those characterized by origins in the Classics, in English Morality plays, or in contemporary sources such as the literature of duelling, or the idiom of the Court). The playwright's self-conscious use of language games, plays-within-plays, disguises, and deceptions is studied with close attention to the self-reflexive effects of these dramatic techniques. Jonson's plays, by using mixed modes of drama, set off dramatic conventions against one another in ways which often undermine the artifice. The moral views in the plays, inconsequence, fail to find any single basis and are also set in conflict with one another. Thus, it is argued, the plays, contrary to certain orthodox views, do not offer simple moral positions for the audience, but demand of the spectators a re-examination of their own frames of moral reference. It is suggested that the view of the world implicit in the earlier plays is one where language seems to offer the possibility of access to an ultimate truth, whereas in the later plays, language increasingly constructs its own truths.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Literature