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Bartholomew Fair has a twofold interest. It furnishes a picture, inimitable in its varied realism, of one of the most characteristic scenes of Elizabethan London. It also reflects not a little the personality of Jonson as he moved, a man among men, and enjoyed to the full the rough, hearty life of the middle and lower classes of the metropolis. Consequently, though the play is not artistic in the highest sense, and is avowedly light in character, it holds a place of importance in Jonson's work and in the Elizabethan drama.
Of the playwrights of his time, Jonson especially made London his province; and of all his plays Bartholomew Fair is the most local in atmosphere. This quality, though constituting the chief excellence of the comedy, is to-day the greatest hindrance to an intelligent appreciation of it. Accordingly, in the Introduction and the Notes I have dwelt particularly on what concerned the life and thought of the people. In such a study contemporary literature, as well as later scholarship, is of course invaluable, and much of the Introduction and Notes will be found to be but a restatement, and a bringing together, of what is not new, nor altogether unfamiliar. My aim has been to present data of unquestionable authority, and to make easy of access