Kathy M. Howlett
Francis C. Blessington (1942-), Marina Leslie
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. English Department.
English Literature, Ben Jonson, Clever slave, Renaissance drama, Comedy, Satire, Jacobean
Ben Jonson (1573?-1637), Servants as literary characters
Literature in English, British Isles
This dissertation argues that the key to Jonson's revision of the classical comic paradigm is his employment of an unsettled and subversive English servant figure, derived literarily from the clever slave that is at the heart of the action in classical comedies, and employed by Jonson as an on-stage satirist. This character's literary inheritance from the classical clever slave and his relationship to the contemporary stereotype of the English servant figure are explored in detail. The dissertation goes on to analyze the ways that Jonson uses these servant figures to expose and ridicule vices specific to the social contexts of each of the comedies that it surveys. The analysis draws attention to cultural, economic and political currents in Elizabethan and Jacobean London and attempts to demonstrate how Jonson's situating of what I call the satiric servant within a staged contemporary social milieu works to critique the social vices of his time. Most of the vices surveyed are either resultant from or closely related to the commercialization of patronage in the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods and the unprecedented social mobility that accompanied it. Jonson's plays consistently deride the promotion of unworthy characters to positions of rank and honor on account of their wealth and lament the under-valuing of virtue in English society. Specific vices associated with the commercialization of patronage that come under attack are the selling of titles of honor and the marketing of projects and monopolies. The dissertation analyzes the development of the satiric servant character and its role in satirizing the specific vices of sixteenth and seventeenth century England over the entire course of Jonson's career, beginning with the early humors comedies and extending through the Caroline plays, which Dryden famously labeled, the dotages. In its analysis, this project seeks to historicize Jonson's use of classical comic dramaturgical methods for the purposes of social satire.
Grewell, Cory, "Subversive merit : the revision of the classical clever slave as witty servant and social satirist in the comedies of Ben Jonson" (2008). English Dissertations. Paper 2. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d1001648x
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