Ben Jonson and character
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This thesis discusses Ben Jonson’s innovative concept of character as an effect of interactions in dramatic, political and literary spheres. The Introduction observes how the early modern understanding of ‘character’ was built on classical rhetorical theory, and argues its relevance to Jonson’s rhetorical and performative representations of characters. Chapter 1 looks into the bridge between epigrams and character writing, and examines the rhetorical influence of the grammar-school exercises of Progymnasmata on Jonson’s representation of characters in his Epigrams. Chapter 2 examines character as legal ethos in Catiline, analysing the discourse of law that constitutes Cicero’s struggle to issue senatus consultum ultimum and examining the way Catiline represents character and mischief to address the problematic issues of power and authority in King James’ monarchical republic. Chapter 3 explores Jonson’s challenge in his integration of the emblematic characters of Opinion and Truth in Hymenaei, and argues that the underlining contemporary medico-legal discourses help the masque to accommodate conflicting characters. Chapter 4 discusses the problematic characterization of news and rumours in Volpone, The Staple of News and the later masques, and considers the way Jonsonian characters strive to find trustworthy and legible signs of others in their exchanges of information. In Conclusion, the thesis confirms the need to re-acknowledge Jonson’s writings in terms of character as rhetorical effect of these imagined interactions.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2020-04-13
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 13th April 2020
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