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Chapter 10 - The Tempest and the Jonsonian Masque

from Part III - Reassessing the Stuart Masque

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 October 2019

Sophie Chiari
Affiliation:
Clermont Auvergne University, France
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Summary

Martin Butler explores some intertextual relationships between Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. Jonson’s reservations about Shakespeare’s late plays are well known. In the induction to Bartholomew Fair, Jonson alludes to the grotesque dances at the sheep-shearing in The Winter’s Tale and to the servant-monster Caliban and the 'strange shapes' in The Tempest’s banquet scene, the latter described by Sebastian, in vocabulary which Jonson pointedly echoes, as 'a living drollery'. All of these things 'make nature afraid': that is, they offend against 'nature', by which Jonson seems to mean 'verisimilitude'. This critique of the faults of Shakespeare’s late style is reinforced elsewhere by Jonson’s disparaging allusion to Pericles as a 'mouldy tale', his remarks about the false geography of The Winter’s Tale, and his prologue to the revised version of Every Man In His Humour. As the prologue concludes, 'you, that have so graced monsters, may like men'. If, by complaining about 'monsters', Jonson is referring to Shakespeare’s late plays, and to The Tempest in particular, then evidently, Butler shows, he felt that Shakespeare not only wanted art, he wanted nature too.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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