Abstract and Keywords
Jonson had a formidable reputation in the Restoration, when his brilliant plots, classical erudition, pugnacious intellect and personal charisma were much admired. After the trauma of the English civil wars, a new generation of ambitious playwrights sought to affiliate themselves to ‘Father Ben’ either by imitating the edgy urban modernity of his humours comedies, as Shadwell did over his career, or by constructing elaborate patrilineal genealogies of influence, as Dryden did in his literary criticism. With the rise of sentimental comedy at the end of the seventeenth century, however, Jonson’s drama fell out of favour. In the next century, Jonson was recast as Shakespeare’s antithesis and envious rival. The comparison turned both playwrights into caricatures: Shakespeare was elevated into a national icon through tributes to his presumably untutored art, while Jonson’s classical learning and intellect, once admired, became grounds for attacks on his pedantry.
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