Volpone's bastards : theorising Jonson's city comedy

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Through studying Volpone’s three bastard children ̶ the dwarf, the androgyne and the eunuch ̶ from the theoretical argument of Freud, Lacan, Derrida and Foucault, this book discusses how Jonson’s comedies are built upon the tension between death, castration and nothingness on one hand, and the comic slippage of identities in the city on the other. This study understands Jonson, first and foremost, as a comedy writer, linking his work with modern film comedies such as the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Monty Python. It is a new approach to Jonsonian studies, responding to the current Marxist-Lacanian studies of literature, film and culture made popular by scholars such as Slavoj Žižek, Alenka Zupančič and Mladen Dolar. While the book pays close attention to the historical context of Jonson’s time, it brings him to the twenty-first century by discussing early modern comedies with modern critical theories and film.

Key Features:
- Reads Ben Jonson in fresh ways from various theoretical perspectives including psychoanalysis, poststructuralism and Marxism
- Shows readers how the dwarf, the androgyne, the eunuch and the parasite are instrumental to the understanding of Volpone and other Jonson’s comedies including Epicoene, The Alchemist and Bartholomew Fair
- Provides readers with a new understanding of Jonson’s comedy, early modern city comedy and the difference between comedy and tragedy
- Compares Jonson with other early modern plays such as Shakespeare’s King Richard III and Twelfth Night, Middleton’s A Mad World, My Masters and A Chaste Maid in Cheapside and Massinger’s The Renegado
- Compares Jonson’s comedies with modern film comedies such as the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Monty Python
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages192
ISBN (Electronic)9781474423496, 9781474423489
ISBN (Print)9781474423472, 9781474452496
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • psychoanalysis
  • poststructuralism
  • Shakespeare
  • comedy
  • Ben Jonson
  • Early Modern literature


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