Ben Jonson, Volpone and the Gunpowder Plot
Ben Jonson's Volpone is the most widely taught and commonly performed English Renaissance play outside of Shakespeare. However, the dramatic circumstances of its writing are little known. Jonson wrote the play very shortly after the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, an event in which he was personally involved. This book argues that the play alludes to the plot as openly as censorship will allow, using the traditional form of the beast fable. As a Roman Catholic himself, Jonson shared in the repression suffered by his co-religionists in the wake of the Plot, and the play fiercely satirizes the man they chiefly blamed for this, Robert Cecil. The elaborate format which Jonson devised for the 1607 edition of Volpone, with a dedication, Epistle and numerous commendatory poems, is reproduced here photographically, allowing the reader to appreciate Jonson's covert meanings and to approach the text as those in 1607 might have done.
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