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Plague Writing in Early Modern England$
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Ernest B. Gilman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226294094

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226294117.001.0001

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[] Jonson, Regime Change, and the Plague of 1603

[] Jonson, Regime Change, and the Plague of 1603

(p.127) [Chapter 3] Jonson, Regime Change, and the Plague of 1603
Plague Writing in Early Modern England

Ernest B. Gilman

University of Chicago Press

The Alchemist has always figured as the richest imaginative document of the Jacobean plague years. Plague sets the scene of Jonson's comedy, and holds the mirror up to the nature of London—and the London theater—under epidemic siege. As Cheryl Lynn Ross has shown, “the world of Ben Jonson's Alchemist—its setting, its rogues and their victims, the structure of the play, and the moral judgments inherent in the text and on its margins—is the world of London during a plague.” Beginning with the plague world of The Alchemist, and as a prelude to Jonson's poetry, this chapter argues that 1603 plague theology and politics also establish a context for understanding Jonson's nondramatic verse, especially the epigram “On my first Sonne.”

Keywords:   Alchemist, Jonson, regime change, plague epidemic, comedy, moral judgment

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