« PreviousContinue »
valor when writing this scene of The Magnetic Lady. The difference between the two situations as a whole is that the speech of Lovel is declamatory, and expresses a noble idealism, while the discussion in this play, since it is participated in by several speakers, is more dramatic -is humorous and satiric, as well as reflective. The serious, reflective element is almost identical with that in The New Inn, which has been traced by Dr. Tennant to the third book of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. 1 Tennant also points out that the same ideas may be found in Plato's Protagoras and Laches.
III. OTHER CLASSICAL BORROWINGS
Jonson's debt to other classical authors is small in The Magnetic Lady. His classical borrowings, most of which were pointed out in a general way by Gifford, are recorded in the notes. These borrowings are all confined to brief passages. Counting references to characters of Latin literature, as well as quotations and allusions, the authors and the number of references to each are as follows: Plautus, 5; Terence, 4; Horace, 3; Juvenal, 2 ; Cicero, 2; Aristophanes, I; Martial, I; and Claudian, 1. The influence of Horace is more apparent in the critical ideas which Jonson expounds in the choruses, but these are so thoroughly assimilated as to preclude literary allusion.
IV. JONSON'S EARLIER PLAYS The chief source upon which Jonson drew in writing The Magnetic Lady was material treated in his earlier plays. His general indebtedness to these has been indicated in the remarks on the prototypes of the characters. At the time of writing this play he was bedridden; had lost
· Edition of The New Inn, Introduction, pp. xlix-lvi.
that touch with contemporary affairs that might have furnished him with new material ; and was dependent upon his imagination, working over the materials afforded by his memory. Jonson's detailed indebtedness to his earlier plays, the allusions, and the repetitions of phrases and ideas, are carefully considered in the explanatory notes.
V. THE RELATION OF THE MAGNETIC LADY TO ELIZABETHAN AND JACOBEAN SATIRE AND
THE SATIRIC DRAMA
Although Jonson was the first great English satirist to select the drama as the vehicle for his invective, he had a formidable list of predecessors and contemporaries in satiric character-drawing. We are accustomed to consider the age of Elizabeth as one of the characteristic eras of Romanticism, and predominantly it was; but a nearer approach will also discover its great complexity. Gascoigne wrote The Steele Glas as early as 1576. Formal satire came distinctly into fashion in the last decade of the sixteenth century: Alden has discussed a list of satirists who wrote between 1593 and 1600. Donne, Lodge, Hall, Marston, Guilpin, T. M., the author of Micro-Cynicon, Turner, and Rowlands. After this period formal satire declined, until in 1613 it revived, and flourished for another decade.2 This temporary blank is probably due, as Alden believes, partly to the efforts of the authorities to suppress satirical literature, and partly to the rise of the satirical drama.
In the drama, the last decade of the sixteenth century was distinctly an age of Romanticism, but by 1600 a
The Rise of Formal Satire in England under Classical Influence. 2 Alden, pp. 238–9.
change became apparent. The exuberance of imagination began to decline, and the national temper seems to have grown more serious and reflective. This is evidenced in part by the rise of Puritanism. So, too, it is exhibited in the drama. Most of the plays from 1600 to 1608 or 1609 were tragedies, or realistic or satiric comedies. 1 Within these years Shakespeare wrote his great tragedies, and Jonson his best comedies. The decade may be called the serious period of the national drama. But after the retirement of Shakespeare, and the rise of the vogue of Beaumont and Fletcher, the influence of the drama narrowed. The better element of the middle class stayed away more and more; and the audience, as described in the inductions to Bartholomew Fair and The Magnetic Lady, seems to have consisted in large part of courtiers and people of fashion, and the rabble. From Bartholomew Fair to The Staple of News, Jonson was busy on the production of masques; and when he again turned to the drama, his own powers had declined, and the form in which he chose to write had gone out of vogue. But in spite of his only partial success, he continued the tradition of the serious drama; and while in the hands of others the English stage had degenerated into a form of sensational entertainment, he exposed and satirized in comedy the same abuses that were attacked by the satirists and the Puritans.
An enumeration of the objects of Jonson's satire in The Magnetic Lady will give an idea of its scope. Under the head of moral defects occur the following : avarice, usury, ambition, fortune-hunting, flattery, abuse of guardianship, hypocrisy, bribery, lust, gluttony, superstition, affectation, slander, cowardice, stupidity. The fashions and institutions satirized are: extravagance in clothes, belief in astrology, the monopoly-system, and the vogue of dueling. Some of these, of course, are merely touched upon. Among the classes satirized are the politician, the money-lender, the lawyer, the courtier, the physician, and the clergyman.
1 Thorndike, The Influence of Beaumont and Fletcher upon Shakspere, chap. 6.
The conventional character of the types and objects satirized in The Magnetic Lady may be seen by a cursory examination of the satiric character-drawing and satiric drama of the early seventeenth century. In the characterwriting of Joseph Hall (1597–1608), Sir Thomas Overbury (1614), and John Earle (1628), we find portrayed characters that are obviously analogues to those in The Magnetic Lady—courtier, flatterer, soldier, tailor, Puritan, mere common lawyer, almanac-maker, hypocrite, precisian, vain-glorious coward in command, roaring boy, domestic chaplain, witless gallant, mere dull physician, alderman, idle gallant, she-precise-hypocrite, handsome hostess, affected man, coward, sordid rich man, etc. Also in the drama, especially that of the first decade of the seventeenth century, are found the same general types of character satirized by Jonson. The works of Middleton, especially, furnish interesting parallels; and the same types are found in Marston, Dekker, and the earlier work of Beaumont and Fletcher. By glancing through the list of dramatis persone of these plays, one can make out a long list of such personages : Lucre, a rich uncle ; Hoard; Moneylove ; Glister, a doctor of physic; Purge, an apothecary; gallants; Gallipot, an apothecary; promoters; midwife, nurses, Puritans, and other gossips ; Knavesby, a lawyer; a land-captain; a sea-captain ; Securitie, a usurer; Bramble, a lawyer; Morecraft, usurer, etc., etc.
This brief review, and the remarks on the prototypes of the characters, show the conventional character of Jonson's satire. The customs and classes held up to ridicule
or moral reprobation in this, as well as his earlier comedies, are the regular objects of Elizabethan and Jacobean formal satire and the satiric drama. Jonson's distinction consists in vividness, convincingness, and consistency of character-portrayal; in reflective comment, humor, diction, literary allusion, and energy of treatment. While it is not the purpose of this work to consider how far Jonson's satire is a realistic reflection of the times, I may remark in passing that it deals with some abuses which were of a purely temporary or transitory nature. A large proportion of the moral vices attacked—avarice, ambition, flattery, hypocrisy, lust, gluttony, cowardice, stupidity -are the universal evils of human nature; but the office of state-informer, the extravagance of courtcostume, the belief in astrology and alchemy, the monopoly-system, the vogue of dueling, and the ignorance and worldliness of clergymen and physicians, were the peculiar evils of the time. Volpone is a type of avarice, one of the evil passions of human nature. Bobadill is a type of the disbanded soldier, living by his wits, who infested the capital at a certain period of its history. In other words, Jonson was both a classical satirist and an English realist.
F. EXTRACTS FROM THE CRITICS
Ward 1: After The New Inn Jonson produced two further comedies, of which the earlier, The Magnetic Lady or Humours Reconciled, acted, as it would appear, under the latter title, in 1633, seems to have not been wholly unsuccessful. Yet in it we have in truth nothing more than the remnants of Ben Jonson-dry leaves from a nosegay of brighter days. The conception of the piece
1 Hist. Eng. Dram. Lit. 2. 377–8.