Research Paper On Ben Jonson

1442 Words6 Pages
In the seventeenth century, poets actively avoided publication due to the stigma associated with printing or selling work for money. Writers that published their work were looked down upon. Most poets, such as Donne wrote poetry for small coteries, and their work existed mostly in manuscripts. However, Ben Jonson wanted to print his writing, and worked extremely hard to publish his folio in 1616. He spend a lot of time putting together the plays and poems, and edited them himself. Therefore, evaluating Jonson's poetry in terms of the media context provides insight into his work by revealing his use of the concept of the authorial persona in print culture to support his goal of defining virtue and vice. Jonson's awareness, display,…show more content…
His knowledge of classical values and traditions becomes the source or foundation of his moral attitudes and claims. He incorporates classical references, and imitates classical traditions in his poetry, such as the poem "Inviting a Friend to Supper." In the poem, the speaker urges an unnamed person he calls "grave sir" to come into his "poor house" for dinner. The speaker modestly acknowledges the condition of his house, and his unworthiness to host the guest he's inviting. However, the speaker's hospitality and graciousness is evident in his willingness to do everything he can to make the night pleasant, and bring all the good food that he "can get" (12). He lists the foods that are going to be served, such as "salad," "mutton," "eggs," and "cheese and fruit" for dessert. This imitates Martial's classical epigrams that describe the same foods in a dinner invitation in a similar order with salad and eggs first, meat for dinner, and fruits for dessert. Martial calls this dinner "small" and "little" in his epigram, which reveals the same modesty that Jonson begins the poem with (V.LXXVIII.). Martial also downplays the importance of the food at the end of the epigram, and Jonson, similarly, redirects the focus when he calls "the entertainment perfect: not the cates" or food (8). The importance of the dinner lies in the interactions, conversations, and enjoyment that happens not in eating expensive food. Jonson brings in classical references to show this. During the dinner, the servant will "read a piece of Virgil, Tacitus, Livy, or some better book" to them (21). The reading of classical literature serves as a form of entertainment, but also as a way of intellectual discourse. Jonson writes that "we'll speak our minds" about the literature "amidst our meat" (23). Learning and entertainment occur simultaneously as the friends listen to and freely discuss their chosen
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