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Tuesday, April 24 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
“Turdy-Facy-Nasty-Paty-Lousy-Fartical Rogues:” Mountebanks And Alchemists In Ben Jonson’s Volpone And The Alchemist

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Is it possible for art and writing to be morally curative while simultaneously generating profit for the artist? This is an ever relevant question to ponder, and one this presentation will examine through the lens of two of the plays of Ben Jonson, an early seventeenth century playwright and younger contemporary of Shakespeare. Throughout Jonson’s life, he had a fraught and ever-changing relationship with and understanding of his own role in the literary market in which he was constantly torn between popular theatre and the patronage based system of writing epigrams and masques for the court. During his literary career, he discovered and frequently returned to the intersection of medicine and literature. Satire has often been thought of as a curative enterprise, and Jonson believes that his duty as healer of the mind and soul is directly analogous to a doctor’s duty as healer of the body. One of the manifestations of this connection is the appearance of fraudulent doctors, a mountebank and an alchemist, in two plays of the quartet that are often considered his best comedies, Volpone and The Alchemist. This presentation will argue that Jonson’s use of these figures allows him to work through the complications and challenges of his own relationship with satire, his audience, and the literary marketplace, as well as that of the playwright more generally.

Tuesday April 24, 2018 2:20pm - 2:40pm PDT
232 Karpen Hall