Ben Jonson's Theatrical Republics by J. Sanders

By J. Sanders

This well timed booklet demanding situations traditional severe knowledge concerning the paintings of Ben Jonson. taking a look specifically at his Jacobean and Caroline performs, it explores his engagement with ideas of republicanism. Julie Sanders investigates notions of group in Jonson's level worlds--his "theatrical republics"--and unearths a Jonson to distinction with the normal picture of the author as conservative, absolutist, misogynist, and basically "anti-theatrical." The Jonson offered here's a confident celebrant of the social and political chances of theatre.

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A myth may well have grown up around the notion of Venice as the perfect mixed constitution {stato misto in Machiavelli's terms, themselves a gloss on the classical writings of Polybius and interestingly Jonson's personal copies of the works of Justus Lipsius contain commentaries on Polybian theory), 11 a blend as it was of Doge (monarchy), Senate (aristocracy), and Great Council (populace), but in essence it was an oligarchy since power rested in the hands of a closed group of approximately two thousand male nobles.

L-5) The implicit sexuality of the image is important, but what Cicero's imagistic echoing of Sylla's speech does is to associate him, albeit in subterranean fashion, with the Catilinarian conspiracy. As a self-made man Cicero has been posited as a potential political role-model for Jonson (an arriviste himself at the Stuart court). From neither literary nor governmental circles, like Sejanus, Cicero was charged with 'provincialism' by the Roman inhabitants (again this cross-play pairing of Cicero and Sejanus is politically Roman Frames of Mind 21 intriguing, and as Geoffrey Hill has pointed out is one of the thornier problems of the Roman tragedies).

The sudden and frenzied eruption of the people into action when the play has thus far been confined to those individuals in power indicates, says Miller, 'that a people deprived of the right to play in affairs of state are finally more dangerous than a people who exercise the right - in a balanced republican polity, for example'. 32 The republicanism of Ancient Rome, as it would largely have been understood by Jacobean audiences, was ostensibly hierarchical; it remained an elitist constitution, with membership and position restricted to the chosen few.

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