Ben Jonson’s Eloquent Nonsense: The Noisy Ordeals of Heard Meanings on the Jacobean Stage (1609-14)

Hristomir A. Stanev


Ben Jonson’s avid staging of noise, aural loss, and inadequate heard meanings in Epicene (1609) and Bartholomew Fair (1614) transforms the plays into peculiar venues for studying and negotiating early modern histories and theories of auditory reception. The ordeals of hearing in each play further betray deeper concerns with the increasingly alienating nature of voiced forms of communication in Jonson’s overpopulated urban setting. This study uncovers local histories of aural failure which indicate that the plays were meant to be heard and in so doing question the very nature of hearing both in the crowded playhouses and within the extended topographic perimeter of Jacobean London.

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