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Like all of Jonson's city comedies, this play - here given in the 1616 Folio version, in which Jonson rewrote and set it in England, not Italy - is a kind of dramatised Do-It-Yourself kit on how to bluff one's way in Elizabethan London. Although Roman New Comedy, in which a crafty slave helps a wild youngster to marry the girl of his choice against his father's wishes, supplies Jonson with his basic plot, the world that he presents here is thoroughly contemporary and mundane. The characters' 'humours' - their driving obsessions - may vary, but all of them strive to represent something greater, nobler, cleverer than their real selves. The joke of the play, this editor suggests, is 'finally on all of us who unconsciously equate the universe with a story in which we play the hero'.
About the Author
Robert N. Watson is Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has served since 1997 as Head Scholar of the Teaching Shakespeare Summer Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
Ben Jonson (1572-1637) was an English dramatist and poet, whose reputation amongst playwrights of the period is only second only to Shakespeare's. Although Jonson found little success as an actor, his reputation as a dramatist was firmly established in 1598 with Every Man in his Humour. This sucess was followed by Every Man out of his Humour and the classically influenced satire Cynthia's Revels. Jonson wrote all of the major comedies upon which his reputation is now based during the period 1605 to 1614.
Robert N. Watson is Distinguished Professor of English and Associate Dean of Humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA. He is the author of many award-winning books, including Back to Nature: The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance (2006) and Shakespeare and the Hazards of Ambition (2004), and editor of several volumes of Ben Jonson's plays.