1. Life and career Pedantic, imitative and supremely self-confident, Jonson is the one great example in English of the Renaissance Humanist turned dramatist and poet. leader of an important literary group which came to be known as the Sons of Ben He had a relish for the varied & colorful London life of his day.
2. Major Works Every Man in His Humour (1598), a comedy of intrigue Cynthia's Revels (1600), a mythological satire The Poetaster (1601), which chronicles Jonson's feud with fellow playwrights like Marston, which came to be known as the War of the Theatres.
Volpone, or the Fox (1605), a satiric comedy that is Jonson's own invention: it includes overreachers and scenes of gulling. Epicoene, or the Silent Woman (1609), another "gulling" comedy which hinges on the fooling of one character by another. The Alchemist (1610), another satire which focuses again on gulling.
Bartholomew Fair (1614) Sejanus (1603), a Roman tragedy Catiline (1611), a Roman tragedy
3. Dramatic Features He had a boisterous & even cruel sense of humor. He showed enormous vigor & impressive originality even when working within classical models. The world of his dramas is mostly made up of knaves, scoundrels, hypocrites, fools, and dupes. He had a delicate artfulness in the handling of word & image in lyrical verse which enabled him to produce such well-remembered examples of perfect verbal patterning as "Drink to me only with thine eyes."
4. Volpone the story of a cunning rich man who feigns a mortal illness so that his wealthy neighbors would court his favor in hopes of becoming his heir
The characters are deliberately restricted in scope in the interests of the satiric purpose. They are pretty shallow and rarely show genuine emotions. Even Bonario & Celia can't fully gain the sympathies of the audience because they are essentially one-dimensional.
Volpone Can Be Read as A moral exemplum A beast fable (Jonson's characters are people, but they have the characteristics of animals, as their names reveal.) A satire (on English life in general) A humor play
Major themes Greed A principal theme is the way that greed can make people gullible. In playing their trick, which focuses on exposing the greed of others, Volpone and Mosca also expose their own selfishness and greed
The Power of Stagecraft There is a tension between the play itself (a play which, Jonson hopes, will be of moral value to those who see it) and what goes on in the play, in which the devices of stagecraft that are involved in the play's actual production are a source of deceit,
Parasitism "Everyone's a parasite" to paraphrase Mosca (III.i), and over the course of the play he is proved right, in the sense that everyone tries to live off of the wealth or livelihood of others, without doing any "honest toil" of their own. Corvino, Corbaccio and Voltore all try to inherit a fortune from a dying man; and Volpone himself has built his fortune on cons such as the one he is playing now.
The setting It is Renaissance Italy, accepted by the English imagination of the time as the proper home of vice, but the satire is deeply misanthropic. In the extravagance of imagery with which Volpone & Mosca express their ambitions and designs, Jonson suggests both: the obsessive nature of their drive for wealth & power a criticism of such attitudes
II. Other playwrights 1. Francis Beaumont (1584-1616) and John Fletcher (1579-1625) Portrayed the crimes and vices of the kings and the aristocracy Employed these terrific scenes of murder and treachery merely to heighten dramatic effects Gifted with their skillful plot construction that produced melodramatic situations and comic effects
2. John Webster (1580?-1635?) The White Devil (1610) and The Duchess of Malfi (1614) are his best plays. They are episodic in structure, allowing Webster to halt the movement of the plot while he exploits the terror or pathos of the moment. It was mankind ’ s anguish and evil alone that captured his imagination. But his verse is poetry of the highest order and holds its own with the best of Marlowe and Shakespeare.
3. Thomas Dekker (ca. 1570-1632) wrote a variety of plays and is particularly known for his city comedies, plays which focus exclusively on urban life, like The Shoemaker's Holiday (1599). Also wrote morality plays. He was a searching critic of the social and economic inequalities of early modern England. These concerns led him to create characters that voiced the opinions of the disempowered, poverty stricken, and marginalized in English society.
4. Philip Massinger (1583-1640) best known for his comedes. A New Way to Pay Old Debts (1633). His finely plotted plays are noted for their satire and realism, and their political and social themes. His plays have generally an obvious moral intention. He sets himself to work out a series of ethical problems through a succession of ingenious and effective plots. He is becoming more and more admired by modern readers and critics because of his qualities of simplicity, saneness, and dramatic effectiveness.
5. Thomas Middleton (1580-1627) He dealt in his comedies with London life, using tricksters & dupes, but he also wrote tragedies. A Trick to Catch the Old One His strength lies rather in his constructive skill, and in his fine dramatic sense, which enables him to give rapidity of movement and effectiveness to his scenes, and to make very real his pictures of low life in London.
Thomas Heywood (1575? – 1641) wrote on historical & patriotic themes; had a kind of ribald comedy he worked into all of his plays. His is known for his domestic tragedies, plays which deal with tragic results of passion or lust in ordinary family situations, like A Woman Killed With Kindness (1627) He had a keen eye for dramatic situations and great constructive skill, but his powers of characterization were not on a par with his stagecraft.