Jonsonian Comedy

  • Michael Stout
Part of the Macmillan Master Guides book series (MMG)


One of the first things that strikes the reader of Ben Jonson’s comedies is that the characters do not develop in the way that Shakespeare’s characters do. They tend to remain fixed throughout the course of the play in their dominant impulses. The only character in Volpone who evolves to a deeper understanding of himself, and swears he will adopt more prudent behaviour in the future, is Sir Politic Would-Be, in the sub-plot. All the main characters in Volpone are the same at the end of the play as they were at the beginning. They have achieved little increased insight into themselves or their condition. This is no reason for adverse criticism of Jonson’s knowledge of human psychology. Indeed, in comedy some of the most amusing effects arise from characters behaving in a predictable way.


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© Michael Stout 1988

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  • Michael Stout

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