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INFLUENCE OF JONSON Ben Jonson was the earliest English dramatist who held definite theories about literature. In an age of novelty, his conservative spirit turned to the ancients for his models and his theories. His unusual acquaintance with Greek and Latin literature, and his keen appreciation of the principles at its root, helped him to make a liberal application of these ideas to contemporary conditions. Mr. H. Symmes 2 sums up the result of this as follows: Jonson nous donne surtout la méthode pratique. Il rend la composition dramatique possible pour beaucoup d'écrivains. Il donne des modèles et des règles définies. Sa critique est appliquée en même temps qu'elle est théorique.' It is this definite formulation of theory that gives Jonson a school of 'Sons,' while Shakespeare has no special group of followers.
Brome was the most conscientious imitator among all these' Sons of Ben.' His imitation, however, can hardly be called servile, for it consists in conformity to the master's method and point of view, rather than in a direct imitation of individual scenes and characters. Though I shall mention some exact parallels of both, they are rather the exception. Brome's several attempts at romance, which are by no means his poorest work, show that he was not completely overshadowed by Jonsonian influence.
The relationship between the elder and the younger dramatist was publicly recognized by the one, and repeatedly acknowledged by the other. Jonson's verses, already quoted, 3 prefixed to the Northern Lass, show that he was not ashamed of his faithful follower. In the
1 Schelling, Ben Jonson and the Classical School, p. 14. * Les Débuts de la Critique Dramatique en Angleterre, p. 169. * Life, p. 10.
prologue of the City Wit, spoken at a revival, Brome proudly proclaims that
it was written, when It bore just Judgement, and the seal of Ben.
The highest praise Brome can give to Newcastle's Variety is 1 :
And all was such, to all who understood,
In speaking of Fletcher,” he says :
I knew him in his strength ; even then when he,
The prologue to the Antipodes has one more acknowledgment of Jonson on the part of Brome. The relationship was also frequently recognized by contemporaries : for instance, C. G.'s verses before the Antipodes, and John Hall's before the Jovial Crew. Alexander Brome says he was at first the envy of his master, 3 and later,4 in defending Richard from detractors, shows that the relationship was quite commonly known.
The discernible influences resulting from this association are: classical tendencies toward the observance of the unities and the arrangement of scenes, suggestions in plot and structure, copied situations, types of humorcharacter, kind of satire, use of the induction, verbal reminiscences, fondness for learning, and slightly Latinized vocabulary. There are also three direct allusions to Jonson's plays. In the Sparagus Garden (2.2, p. 139), 'Subtle and his Lungs' are mentioned. Cockbrayne,
1 Verses in Five New Plays, 1659, preceding Covent Garden Weeded. 2 Verses prefixed to the folio of 1647. • Verses before Five New Plays, 1652. • Preface to Five New Plays, 1659.
the justice, in Covent Garden Weeded (1. I, p. 2), says : ' And so as my Reverend Ancestor Justice Adam Overdoe, was wont to say, In Heavens name and the Kings, and for the good of the Commonwealth I will go about it.' In the City Wit (3. I, p. 318), Crack, the boy, says : ' By Indenture Tripartite, and't please you, like Subtle, Doll, and Face.'
What Jonson stood for in dramatic theory may be gathered from his remarks in the piologues, inductions, etc., scattered through his work. He approved not only of 'ancient forms, but manners of the scene, the easiness, the propriety, the innocence, and last the doctrine. At first he considered action less important than words, and words less important than matter, but later he gave more emphasis to action. Unity of action he thought necessary, and also that of time, but unity of place, though desirable, he did not demand.6 Besides opposing the romantic tendencies of impossible situations and lack of unities, Jonson insisted that the drama should have a moral aim, and that errors and follies should be the subjects of comedy. The characters should be all types, the language pure, and the morality should be made palatable by humor. Finally, poetic justice should be kept. Very few of these theories Jonson put consistently into practice, for when dramatic effects could not be secured by following the theory, he disobeyed his own rules. For instance, there is often more humor than moral aim, and often much to violate the unity of action.
Jonson's practice in regard to the minor unities is
1 The following is condensed from Symmes. * Volpone, Dedication.
3 Cynthia's Revels, Prologue. • Alchemist, To the Reader, and Bartholomew Fair, Induction. 5 Magnetic Lady, Induction. • Volpone, Prologue, Every Man Out, and Magnetic Lady. 7 Woodbridge, op. cit., p. 28.
consistent with his theories, as far as the circumstances of the age would permit. Brome 2 keeps these unities strictly in but five plays—the New Academy, Covent Garden Weeded, the Novella, the Antipodes, and the Court Begger. Four of the plays take place in two weeks or over, and the rest in about two or three days. All the plays, except four with romantic plots, keep the unity of place, interpreted as Jonson interprets it-confining the action to one city.
In another classical practice, which really amounts to a detail in printing, making the entrance of every character a new scene,3 Brome followed Jonson quite closely in three of the four plays published during his own lifetime. By the time he published the fourth, the Jovial Crew, he evidently considered this unnecessary. Nabbes is the only contemporary whom I have observed to imitate Jonson in this point in the printing of comedies.5
Artificial points of technique of this kind are of slight consequence. Brome's imitation of Jonson is of a much more fundamental character. I think that even the types of plot he uses are developments of the types used by his master. I have already mentioned, in the discussion
1 L. S. Friedland, Dramatic Unities in England,' Jour. Eng. and Germ. Phil. 10. 77–84.
2 Friedland (p. 85) mentions but one example of Brome's vio. lation of the unities, and considers his allusion to the lawes of comedy' (Sparagus Garden, Prologue) to refer to the unities. This reference, as well as those in the Epilogue to the English Moor, and in Jonson's lines before the Northern Lass, I take to mean the laws of humor-comedy or of satiric drama, rather than to the unities.
3 Jonson speaks of the division into acts and scenes according to the Terentian manner' in the Induction to Every Man Out, and follows the principle in the printing of his first folio.
• The Queen and the Concubine, published after his death, also shows an attempt to keep this practice.
5 Nabbes also mentions the unity of time in the Epilogue to his Covent Garden.
of the structure of the plays, the resemblance of the City Wit, and the underplots of the Sparagus Garden and Covent Garden Weeded, to the Alchemist. This type of plot that consists of a series of tricks, a type that became a great favorite on the Caroline stage, I think is the result of imitation of Jonson's great farce. Another result is the fondness for extremely complicated plots. The Alchemist has a great many situations, a great variety of trickery, complicated by counterplotting on the part of the dupes, and even by division among the plotters themselves. However, as there is one main interest throughout, the plot remains clear in spite of its extreme intricacy. The lesser men who imitated this could gain this complication only by introducing several interests. The result is such a maze as that in which Brome involves himself in most of his comedies. These many interests divide the attention so much that one may say of many of Brome's plays, as Genest does of Covent Garden Weeded, that they have no main plots. Jonson himself, as Miss Woodbridge has pointed out, often has no single line of action dominant, for instance in the Devil is an Ass.
Brome's method of exposition of plot and character also shows the influence of Jonson. Jonson almost always announces a new actor before he enters the scene, and very often characterizes the humor of one of his personages in speeches of another. This, of course, is not exclusively a Jonsonian device, but it is carried so far by him that it becomes a mannerism of his comedy. For instance, in Every Man In (1. 3), Cob explains Bobadil's character to Matthew, and then adds some facts of the plot in a soliloquy. Again, in 3.2 the humor of Justice Clement is given before his entry on the scene. In Cynthia's Revels this method of exposition is carried so far as to become very undramatic. Mercury and Cupid
See above, p. 55.