Title

Laborious Ben Jonson

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-1-2019

Publication Title

Ben Jonson Journal

Volume

26

Issue

1

First page number:

21

Last page number:

39

Abstract

This essay discusses labor in the poetry of Ben Jonson and engages some notable recent critical assessments of Jonson's labor as a concept determined by material production. Contemporaries, such as John Donne, often drew attention to Jonson's “labor” as he himself does in a Latin phrase on the frontispiece of the 1616 folio. What did he mean by it? The characteristic integration of labor that Jonson exhibits in both his poetic practice and persona was tied to a foundational idea that he received and developed from translation of Horace's “Art of Poetry.” Rather than determined by market forces and the like, the multiplex meanings and contexts that Jonson can be seen to associate with labor suggests that it was a concept he received from classical and medieval writers who emphasized that both the material and spiritual ends of poetry were equally important. Poets such as Milton, Robert Southwell, and Herbert also display similar ideas tied to labor. A discussion of Hercules' Labors in Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, in which Jonson draws attention to the relationship between virtue, labor, and happiness, as well as demonstrates his familiarity with the association medieval writers made between labor and the labyrinth, concludes the essay.

Keywords

Labor; Horace; Donne; Milton; Mask; Herbert; Virtue; Labyrinth

Disciplines

Poetry

Language

English

UNLV article access

Search your library

Share

COinS