To mix profit with your pleasure"

In the prologue to Volpone Jonson propounds a stock formula for poetry derived from the Roman poet, satirist and critic Horace in his Ars Poetica. That is that the role of the poet was both to "entertain and delight" (much like More’s "serious playing" in Utopia). Poetry was regarded as a civilising force and educational instrument to the humanists. Jonson’s contemporary Sidney expounded in his Apology for Poetry 1595, "But the poet is the food for the tenderest stomachs, the poet is indeed the right popular philosopher"(cited by I. Rivers in Classical and Christian Ideas in Renaissance Poetry). This highlights the moral education expected of poetry and the public responsibility of the poet. The audience in the prologue to The Alchemist are portrayed as "judging spectators", highlighting the active participation of the audience in their own moral education. Jonson’s art is one self-consciously aware of the mechanics of dramatics and public theatre, the influence of the classics and the job of the poet. The aims of Jonson’s art seems to remain the same whether in dedicatory poems for select readership or plays for the public forum; a humanist and conservative drive to educate and entertain "to inform men in the best reason of living" (Epistle to Volpone). Satire is the vehicle by which he attempts his moral education in the comedies The Alchemist, Volpone and Epiceone. His style seems to have close affinities with the Roman satirist Juvenal whose scornful, farcical and vituperative poetry forms an attack against human folly. Like this satirist he treads a thin line between alienating his audience and provoking a productive self-examination in the audience. He must engineer his strategy somewhere in between didactic "railing rhetoric"(Epistle to Volpone) and amoral wit and hollow laughter

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.