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date: 28 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The accession of James I marks the beginning of a change in Jonson’s poetics. In his Jacobean plays, Jonson’s increased insistence upon the application of neoclassical laws is countered by the increasing unruliness of nature. Art, Jonson claims, should imitate and perfect nature, yet in both his major comedies and Sejanus and Catiline art’s primary purpose appears to be to destroy nature or reduce it to a ‘standing reserve’ ready for consumption. Conversely, in these plays nature emerges as an ontologically unstable category. Deformed, diseased, and virulent, nature disrupts art’s attempts to imitate and perfect it. Nature becomes a lack transformed by the artifices of human desire into a simulacrum of itself behind which it ultimately vanishes.

Keywords: Ben Jonson, James I, art, nature, neoclassical poetics, comedy, tragedy, satire, simulacrum

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