Renaissance and Restoration Period (Part II)

       My History of English Literature Assignment part II
> Ben Jonson and The Masque
            It is not easy to fit Ben Jonson into the paten of Renaissance drama, but it would be totally misleading to leave him out. Jonson was born in London, the son of a clergyman, and educated at Westminster School, where he acquired a good knowledge of classics. At first he worked as a bricklayer, but subsequently, after military service in Flanders, became an actor and playwright.
            Jonson’s first major play was Everyman in His Humour (1598). By humour Jonson meant the governing passion of human beings, such as greed, lust and ambition, passion which he exaggerates for the purpose of the satire. Renaissance and medieval physiology, a humour was a bodily fluid; excessof one particular fluid was felt to unbalance the tempera
ment of people, making them, for example, melancholic or sanguine.What may strike us about Jonson’s plays, as well as their caustic satire, is their ingenuity, as if Jonson delights in showing off his skill in a masterly exhibition of plotting and timing.
            Jonson’s delight in artifice and elaboration, so evident in his comedies, present us with a clue to the other aspects of his dramatic achievement: the mosque. Masques were fashionable at court, especially during the reign of james I. they were spectacular entertainments combining verse, music, dancing, disguises and visual effects. They were performed indoors, often by professionals, while the masquers were played by members of the court.
            It was Jonson who established the masque as a definite form. He liked to add an anti-masque at the beginning, a burlesque or parody of the main masque. It should be obvious that masques were expensive entertainments, elaborate and spectacular, but also oddly insular. The court may have been deluded in its self-image, but it was Jonson and Jone’s designs that were to hold sway rather than Shakespeare’s Globe with its open Globe and minimal scenery.

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