'The trade of application' : political and social appropriations of Ben Jonson, 1660-1776
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This thesis is an analysis of the manner in which the persona and works of Ben Jonson were appropriated – between the Restoration, in 1660, and the retirement of David Garrick, in 1776 – to reflect the political and social concerns of the age. Unlike previous studies, rather than primarily focusing on the stage history of Jonson, I analyse a wide range of sources – produced both within and outwith the theatre – in order to explore, across a variety of media, a breadth of material which appropriates the playwright and his works. I shall consider in my first main chapter the appropriations of Jonson within the Restoration court, in particular noting the assimilation of the playwright’s work to what might be styled a proto-Tory ideology, as well as the way in which his plays could mirror the destabilising effects of the king’s romantic liaisons. In my second chapter, I explore the moral reformation at the turn of the eighteenth century, in which we can see appropriations of Jonson which cast his works as being primarily didactic. The third chapter moves the narrative of the thesis into the years of the premiership of Sir Robert Walpole. I shall consider the way in which the playwright’s works – especially The Alchemist and Eastward Ho! – were seen as being especially relevant to an age of speculation and mercantile endeavour, as well as examining the manner in which the figures of Sejanus and Volpone were appropriated to mock the increasingly unpopular premier. In the final chapter, I shall offer an analysis of Garrick’s seminal portrayal of Drugger in the contexts of the political philosophy of the mid-eighteenth century, considering the manner in which it was interpreted alongside the character’s further appropriations by Francis Gentleman. The thesis concludes by exploring political appropriations of Jonson up to the present day.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-10-31
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 31st October 2023
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