Does satire have the ability to effect social reform? If so, what satiric style is most effective in bringing about reform? This book explores how Renaissance poet and playwright Ben Jonson negotiated contemporary pressures to forge a satiric persona and style uniquely his own. These pressures were especially intense while Jonson was engaged in the Poetomachia, or Poets’ War (1598-1601), which pitted him against rival writers John Marston and Thomas Dekker. As a struggle between satiric styles, this conflict poses compelling questions about the nature and potential of satire during the Renaissance. In particular, this book explores how Jonson forged a moderate Horatian satiric style he championed as capable of effective social reform. As part of his distinctive model, Jonson turned to the metaphor of purging, in opposition to the metaphors of stinging, barking, biting, and whipping employed by his Juvenalian rivals. By integrating this conception of satire into his Horatian poetics, Jonson sought to avoid the pitfalls of the aggressive, violent style of his rivals while still effectively critiquing vice, upholding his model as a means for the reformation not only of society, but of satire itself.
Introduction: Jonson in the Age of Juvenal
1 Jonson and the Comedy of Humors
2 The Depths and Heights of Satire: Jacke Drum’s Entertainment and Cynthia’s Revels
3 The Scourge and the Purge: Satiromastix, Poetaster, and Satiric Ethos
4 "Thy wiser temper": Jonson’s Epigrams and the Whipper-Satirist
5 The Postscript of the Poetomachia: Bartholomew Fair
From Shakespeare to Jonson, Routledge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture looks at both the literature and culture of the early modern period. This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Considering literature alongside theatre, popular culture, race, gender, ecology, space, and other subjects, titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.