Robert C. Evans


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Ben Jonson's debts to Renaissance emblem writers have been explored by various scholars. Alan R. Young, for instance, has helpfully noted much of this previous research while contributing valuable insights of his own.1 One might therefore assume that little remains to be said about Jonson the emblematic artist and that the work of previous scholars is both abundant and easily accessible. Yet these assumptions seem misguided. Young's article, for example, seems the only explicit, comprehensive discussion of Jonson and emblems to be recently published. And because most commentary on Jonson and emblems deals with the masques rather than with the great plays or poems, we find ourselves in a curious position: No one would deny the relevance of emblems and iconography to the masques, but these are not Jonson's most enduring works. If the masques inevitably strike many readers as rather minor and dated, then it might seem easy to conclude that emblematic thinking had only a peripheral and limited impact on Jonson's best writing.