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Craig editor. Ben Jonson: The Critical Heritage. Ian Donaldson. Jonson's Magic Houses: Essays in Interpretation. Richard Dutton. Ben Jonson: Authority Criticism. Martin's Press. Robert C. Jonson and the Contexts of His Time. Bucknell University Press. Richard Harp; Stanley Stewart editors. The Cambridge Companion to Ben Jonson. Cambridge University Press. James Hirsh editor. New Perspectives on Ben Jonson. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Ben Jonson: Poetry and Architecture. Clarendon Press.

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Alexander Leggatt. London and New York: Methuen. Tom Lockwood. Ben Jonson in the Romantic Age. Format see all Format. All listings filter applied. Buy it now. Condition see all Condition. New Used Not specified Please provide a valid price range. Item location see all Item location. Ireland Only. European Union. Show only see all Show only. Free postage. Win and Mistress Overdo for all their superior, middle-class airs have with promises of fine clothes, the attentions of gallants and the pomp of a carriage been lured into decking themselves as whores; and in the speed of their undoing, we marvel at their vacuity.

It is as if in these instances the stripping off of attire brings us to the core of a character we have till now only guessed at. Three of the plays deploy costume for more complex thematic ends that confront issues of gender and these merit more detailed study. Wittipol in The Devil is an Ass dresses as the Spanish Lady the better to have access to Frances Fitzdottrel and to get the measure of her husband and his circle of cronies. He is infatuated by an image but knows no more of the reality that is the Spanish Lady than he seriously knows his own wife.

In the opening act of the play Fitzdottrel considered that he could best display his own manliness by the ostentatious wearing of a cloak at the public theatre; now he considers that a dress makes the disguised Wittipol the acme of womanhood.

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Costume and how its social or gender signification is read within the world of a play allow Jonson to investigate the nature of perception in considerable depth. In Epicoene, for example, there are fifteen named characters, all of whom are onstage during the final scenes; six of them are identified as female and are dressed accordingly, yet such were the conventions of the theatre at the time that all fifteen actors present are in fact male; the female characters have been constructed within the tiring-house in terms of clothing, make-up, wigs and through the artistry of the performers in terms of posture, mannerisms, vocal timbre.

The play begins with a trio of gallants discussing and in part scorning the elaborate processes involved when a woman makes up her face and dons her wig and the striking differences between this projected image of the self and the private reality. The men adopt a tone of superiority; but, since they set the standard in acceptable female beauty, their criticism and want of charity rebound back on them. That Mistress Otter falls upon her husband and overpowers him in the ensuing fight undermines all his pretensions to authority over her and exposes him for the liar, cad and cowardly ass that he is; she shames and unmans him totally.

The Alchemist - Synopsis

All the men are seen in time to fall far short of the urbanity which they pretend shapes their lives, values and responses. At the end of the play Dauphine suddenly uncases the most beautiful and gracious of the six women revealing Epicoene to be a boy meticulously disguised, and trained like an actor to play convincingly at being female. Dauphine has constructed a woman and passed her off successfully in polite society.

Most of them resist easy categorisation, since the Collegiates are seeking to adopt masculine freedoms and tones of authority while still cultivating a feminine appearance and charisma, and the men seem increasingly absurd and unmanly the more they try to embody set styles of masculinity. Embodying gender as traditionally defined imposes a strain on their lives; and there is a sense of shocked release when Epicoene proves to be neither the stereotype of the silent woman nor that of the shrill-voiced harridan but a boy who has effortlessly if with some art transgressed gender boundaries.

What should or so it is claimed be natural is shown in Epicoene to be clever pretence, a product of technical virtuosity, gifted playing, a living up to the conventional significations of a dress. Equally exciting and provocative is the deployment of costuming in The New Inn to level a satirical attack against class consciousness.

On changing dresses with Frances to give herself the required appearance of superiority, Pru quietly assumes a remarkable authority, which as the sports commence, is seen to have less to do with power over others than shrewd insight into both their natures and their ambitions in life. In every way she lives up to the status implicit in her dress. Or would it be more accurate to see the dress as an outward manifestation of her inner worth?


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That question is soon answered with the arrival at the inn of the gorgeous costume originally intended for Pru to revel in as Queen. It is worn by Pinacia, wife of the tailor who made it, who is pretending to be the grand lady to help her husband dressed out as a footman act out his sexual fantasy of copulating with his wealthy, titled clients. They are following a ritual they have evidently indulged in frequently before.

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Pinacia is the antithesis of Pru: she cannot convincingly play the role of lady, only a mannered caricature of what is required. That she commands no authority is evidenced by the speed with which she and her husband become an object of derision for the servants and a party of roistering drinkers who catch sight of them. Pinacia is stripped of her garb, which Pru assumes to look even more resplendently a queen. She draws his gaze but to excite his understanding and sympathy, as she demonstrates such qualities herself through her conduct within the court of love, which is the form Pru insists the revels should take.

He watches the movement of her mind and in admiration proposes marriage, valuing not her status but her inner worth and intelligence. Again Jonson invites the audience to perceive the psychological motivation underlying this aspect of his plotting by offering a parallel which also focuses on female attire and the male gaze. Beaufort is trapped by his own superficiality; he knows nothing of the woman to whom he finds himself wed.

In doing so, Jonson presents in Pru a radical challenge to contemporary class distinctions and the assumptions about worth that accompanied them. The New Inn is a highly subversive play and one site of its interrogation of social attitudes is the male gaze and the patriarchal mind-set that generally but not invariably directed it.

Given such a complex concern to determine the social and psychological ramifications of varying modes of perception, it does Jonson a disservice to argue like Gurr that his plays lack a developed visual dimension, that they are verbal constructs principally aimed at listeners. One could justifiably argue that the plays offer audiences exciting lessons in seeing. Notes 1 I have not included the fragments or the masques in this count, nor both versions of Every Man in his Humour. Nobody can complain of eyestarvation now.

It was Jonson…who led the opposition to this scenic theatre when the marvels tended to oust the words. To my mind these triumphs of engineering are the worst possible enemies of illusion. Of Venice we were reminded briefly in a backcloth by Mr. MALCOLM PRIDE, a designer of promise who will no doubt learn to express himself more simply; but only to have the impression almost obliterated by two of his enormous buildings that seemed to be part of a municipal tramway as they rolled together and clanged against the buffers.

It would be very clever if the stage could be made to turn upside down, but equally shattering to the innocent pretences on which all theatre depends. Pride deployed throughout a forestage from which two steps took actors up to the main stage beyond a proscenium arch. For the mountebank scene 2. To the rear of this and to the right three steps led up to what one was to suppose was a quayside with a cut-out of a gondola, beyond which was a backdrop painted with a kind of overlay of appropriate Venetian palaces.

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Though Venetian elements are apparent to the searching eye, the overall effect lacks any sense of specific place and atmosphere because the assemblage of pieces is jumbled and devoid of visual rhythm. Against such settings costumes had to make a bold statement, if they were to assist the actors in establishing character.

Yet again decorative detailing appears to have got in the way of clarity of definition. Celia Siobhan McKenna , for example, was given a gown sporting a belt made of huge pearls, while more pearls were formed into a tiara and were spread liberally over her sleeves and skirt. Simplicity of design certainly allowed for rapid and efficient scene-changing. The problem was the opulently baroque lines of the painted work and the dazzling colours; it looked merely decorative, theatrical without the purposeful metatheatrical challenges that Jonson delights in and cheaply, cheerfully strident.

This astringent quality is hard to seek in Mr.

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The production had speed but little depth. One cannot but speculate at this distance whether director and designer were perhaps misled by reductive ideas about Jonsonian humours; it is significant that reviewers confronted by this staging felt a need for complexity of characterisation and did not dismiss the play as failing to offer it but chastised cast and designer for failing to realise such potential from the text. The whole idea for this scheme was inspired by the work of William Poel who staged numerous revivals of Renaissance plays from on what he called his Fortune fit-up an easily erected imitation of its Elizabethan name-sake in oak, canvas and tapestried curtaining in an attempt to reproduce the staging conditions of the Renaissance theatre.