Tuesday 18 November, 2014, 1-2 pm
Garden Seminar Room, Kennedy Hall, School of English
Lorna Hutson, Berry Professor of English Literature and Julianne Mentzer, Ewan & Christine Brown Ph.D. Scholar in the School of English, will lead a reading group on Ben Jonson’s Everyman in his Humour, scenes 3.5 – 5.5.
The texts for this reading group are:
Lorna and Julianne have provided the following introductory text as a way in to the materials:
Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour (1598 and 1616) is mainly known for setting the fashion for a satirical ‘humours’ comedy of urban types and for listing Shakespeare among its first performers.
Yet from Act 3, scene 5 to the final scene, the play seems preoccupied with the question of how far the behaviour of literate gentlemen should be under any kind of legal surveillance. This might not seem surprising, but social historians have recently interpreted 16th century ‘law-mindedness’ as part of the emergence of civic consciousness and state formation. Steve Hindle argues that that participatory legal practices such as the ‘practice of appearing before magistrates to swear the peace, to request that an opponent be bound over’ were crucial to state formation and the expansion of the public sphere in this period (The State and Social Change, 97).
Jonson pays close technical attention, from 3.5 to 5.5, to the practices of binding over to keep the peace and of constables searching ‘suspicious’ houses. We have given you pp.11-18 of William Lambarde’s The Duties of Constables (1602), where Lambarde discusses the keeping of the peace. Constables may
- break into a house where there’s an affray to ‘cause the peace to be kept, though none of the parties have taken hurt’ (15-16)
- arrest suspected persons or persons ‘who haunt any house, where is suspition of baudrie’ (p. 12)
- search ‘suspected houses’ where there might be ‘fornication’ (p. 18).
In 5.1, Justice Clement hears the case of multiple suspected adultery involving Cob’s house, and dismisses it; in 5.2 and 5.3 he hears the cases of Bobadil’s breach of peace complaint against Downright, and Downright’s case against Stephen for theft. If we think this is just a comedy in which a ‘merry’ magistrate (3.5.41) achieves a more ample justice by mocking law’s formalities, then how are we to think of the radically licentious attitude that it seems to permit, by enabling the gentlemen to use sexual suspicion to effect a clandestine marriage? What are the consequences for female sexual honour (Bridget’s)? What are the social politics here, and the attitudes to urban violence?
We look forward to seeing all you on 18th November.
Lorna Hutson’s interests are in the rhetorical bases of Renaissance literature, and in the relationship between literary form and the formal aspects of non-literary culture. Recent work includes the delivery of the Oxford Wells Shakespeare Lectures, 2012, on ‘Circumstantial Shakespeare’, the editing of Ben Jonson’s Discoveries(1641) for the Cambridge Complete Works of Ben Jonson (2012) and The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama (OUP, 2007, pbk 2011), which won the Roland Bainton Prize for Literature in 2008. She is currently working, with Bradin Cormack, on the Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, 1500-1700, and directs CMEMLL, the Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Law and Literature.
Julianne received her BA in English and Philosophy (with University and College honors) in 2008 from Carnegie Mellon University. As an undergraduate student, she was awarded the Posner Internship to create an exhibition of Elizabethan portraiture and fine and rare books. She continued her studies at Carnegie Mellon, and received her MA in Literary and Cultural Studies (distinction) in 2009. During her time at the university and thereafter, she worked as a Teaching Assistant for the College of Fine Arts and the Philosophy Department. She received her MLitt in Renaissance Studies from the University of Strathclyde in 2010 (under the Scottish Institute for Northern Renaissance Studies), holding the Clan Donald National Scholarship.
Julianne Mentzer’s PhD project, supervised by Professor Lorna Hutson, explores representations of male friendships, primarily in dramatic texts. She is currently exploring the manner by which male homosocial friendship and fellowship developed through textual means, that is, from humanist underpinnings at grammar schools, through the exchange of textual knowledge, and the focus on developing rhetorical skills of persuasion.