Date of Thesis

5-18-1964

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Abstract

Although history has caused the satirist Ben Jonson and his witty plays to be swallowed up in the genius of his colleague, dramatist Will Shakespeare, in Elizabethan England the two were considered of similar stature. Ben Jonson, charismatic, antagonistic, conflicted, was a person of little subtlety, but of considerable interest for many. It becomes quickly evident from the characters in his plays Bartholomew Fair and The Alchemist that he developed an antipathy to the Puritans of his day. Ben Jonson, the convert to Catholicism, seemed to take personally the antics and forays of those who claimed their goal was to rid the Anglican Church of all of its Roman ties.

What was Jonson’s attitude toward the Puritans? How did it develop? Did it change throughout the years? Were Jonson’s attacks based on what how the Puritans behaved or what they represented? Were the Puritans in Jonson’s eyes the Elizabethan equivalent of the Pharisees’ of Jesus’ time? Or were Jonson’s attacks purely pragmatic? Was claiming to provide spiritual answers a subterfuge for their love of money the catalyst for Jonson’s attacks? Or was it that they cost him popularity and commissions? So virulent were these attacks that some even claimed Jonson “hated” the Puritans. Was this really so?

Utilizing all resources available in 1964, this thesis takes the time to weigh and evaluate the different aspects of Ben Jonson’s anti-Puritanism. The weight of conclusion falls on the significance of their impact on Jonson’s life as a dramatist. Research done since that time confirms this conclusion.

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