Recommend to your Librarian

Ben Jonson, Renaissance Dramatist

Sean McEvoy

Hardback i (Printed to Order)
eBook (PDF) i

This new guide to the English renaissance's most erudite and yet most street-wise dramatist strongly asserts the theatrical brilliance of his greatest plays in performance, then and now.

The book integrates all of Jonson's major plays into the milieu of the turbulent years which produced them, and analyses the way each work examines the issues and challenges of those years: money, power, sex, crime, identity, gender, the theatre itself. It offers a lucid guide to the competing critical views of a playwright who is far more than the obverse of his friend and rival William Shakespeare, and it explains in detail how the undoubted power and energy of these plays in modern performance should be the touchstone of their quality to both critic and reader.

The plays discussed include the early Comedies, the Roman Tragedies (Sejanus and Catiline), Volpone, Epicoene, The Alchemist, Bartholomew Fair and The Devil is an Ass.

Key Features

  • The book is an up-to-date introduction to all the major plays, covering the major criticism from a variety of critical perspectives
  • Ben Jonson's skill as a writer of brilliantly theatrical drama is emphasised throughout
  • Each play is securely and informatively placed in its literary and historical context
  • There is a lively account of how the plays have worked on stage in recent productions


List of abbreviations used
List of Illustrations
Chapter One: Life and Culture
(i) Jonson’s Life
(ii) The Roots of Jonson’s Theatre: Classicism
and Humanism
(iii) Jonson and Authority
Chapter Two: The Early Comedies (1597-1601)
The Case is Altered (1597)
Every Man Out of His Humour (1599) and
Poetaster (1601)
Chapter Three: The Roman Tragedies - Sejanus (1603)
and Catiline (1611)
Chapter Four: Volpone, or The Fox (1605-6)
Chapter Five: Epicoene, or (1609)
Chapter Six: The Alchemist (1610)
Chapter Seven: Bartholomew Fair (1614)
Chapter Eight: The Devil is an Ass (1616)
Chapter Nine: The Late Plays (1626-34)
The Staple of News (1626) and The New Inn (1629)
The Magnetic Lady (1632) and The Tale of a Tub (1634)
Further Reading

About the Author

Sean McEvoy teaches English at Varndean College, Brighton and is a visiting lecturer on the Shakespeare MA course at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of Shakespeare: The Basics (Routledge, 2000; second edition 2006) and William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet': A Sourcebook (Routledge, 2006).

Also in this series