Ben Jonson: Selected Masques

Front Cover
Yale University Press, 1970 - Drama - 377 pages
The Renaissance court masque, traditionally an entertainment of music, dancing, pageantry, and spectacular scenic effects was transformed by Ben Jonson into a serious mode of literary expression. Because its flexibility provided a forum for his dramatic imagination, Jonson was able to resolve and transcend the satiric vision that was in many ways the substance of his drama. He instructed as well as applauded his courtly audience and, with the aid of the great theatrical designer Inigo Jones, brought unity to the diverse elements of the masque, infusing them with a moral and poetic life.
In early 1969, Yale University Press published The Complete Masques, the first one-volume edition and the most carefully edited and annotated text available. A modernized version, the 576 page Complete Masques includes the faithful reprinting of Jonson’s own glosses and notes, translated and annotated, as well as explanatory notes which offer the most detailed critical commentary ever undertaken. This abridged collection contains the most important of the works included in the large edition, and Mr. Orgel’s introduction which discusses Jonson’s development of the masque in relation to Inigo Jones’s development of the illusionistic stage.
Mr. Orgel is associate professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley.

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About the author (1970)

Born in 1572, Ben Jonson rejected his father's bricklaying trade and ran away from his apprenticeship to join the army. He returned to England in 1592, working as an actor and playwright. In 1598, he was tried for murder after killing another actor in a duel, and was briefly imprisoned. One of his first plays, Every Man Out of His Humor (1599) had fellow playwright William Shakespeare as a cast member. His success grew with such works as Volpone (1605) and The Alchemist (1610) and he was popular at court, frequently writing the Christmas masque. He is considered a very fine Elizabethan poet. In some anti-Stratfordian circles he is proposed as the true author of Shakespeare's plays, though this view is not widely accepted. Jonson was appointed London historian in 1628, but that same year, his life took a downward turn. He suffered a paralyzing stroke and lost favor at court after an argument with architect Inigo Jones and the death of King James I. Ben Jonson died on August 6, 1637.

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