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date: 15 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

For Una Ellis-Fermor, there is a ‘deeply inherent non-dramatic principle’ in the drama of Ben Jonson, a fundamental dislike of theatricality, and a pursuit instead of ‘psychological truth’. Conversely, theatre directors such as Sam Mendes see Jonson’s plays as beautifully engineered blueprints for performance, and locate the psychological truth of Jonson precisely in performance on the stage. This chapter considers current approaches to the whole question of Jonson in performance. It examines the idea of an antitheatrical Jonson, rooted in Jonson’s own critical writings and developed by Ellis-Fermor, Herford and Simpson, and Jonas A. Barish, among others. It contrasts that with the more theatre-friendly version of Jonson which informs much recent performance criticism. The chapter builds up to a reading of the metatheatrical and performance aspects of the most often staged Jonson play of all: Volpone.

Keywords: performance, stage, audience, theatre, antitheatricality, Volpone, Cynthia’s Revels

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