Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 September 2020
Jonson was a key figure in rebuilding the repertoire of the revived playhouses of Restoration London, but as a model he was inhibiting as well as enabling. This essay first explores the circumstances in which his plays were revived and updated (exclusively by the King’s Company, who had their monopoly on Jonson’s plays confirmed in 1669). It goes on to look at the purposes to which the rival Duke’s Company put Jonson’s public image, as they sought to produce a Jonsonian comic output of their own. Both Thomas Shadwell and Edward Howard crafted works that drew on the plots and characters of Jonson’s comedies, particularly Epicene, concentrating the erotic themes suggested by the originals. The essay addresses Jonson’s predominance in the 1670–1 theatrical season, a crucial point at which aspects of his dramatic afterlife coalesced and the direction of comedy into the next decade was being formulated, and focuses on two Duke’s Company comedies: Shadwell’s The Humorists and Howard’s The Six Days Adventure; or, The New Utopia. It argues that these playwrights’ direct, practical efforts to enhance Jonson’s reputation (whilst strengthening their own) saw an awkward updating of humours comedy with moralistic depictions of erotic and homoerotic appetites.