Award Date

December 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Richard Harp

Second Committee Member

Donald Revell

Third Committee Member

Timothy Erwin

Fourth Committee Member

Margaret Harp

Number of Pages



This dissertation examines significant words in Ben Jonson’s poetic lexicon that the poet inherited, borrowed, and shaped from antiquity and through the Middle Ages. Jonson used etymology as a means to rhetorical inventio, a common practice in the Renaissance. Etymology comprehended more than mere word derivation in the Renaissance but also notably included philological study. Ben Jonson’s extensive knowledge of language, history, architecture, the plastic arts, and philosophy is well known, but the extent to which Jonson’s knowledge of these subjects contributed to his understanding and use of poetic language is not. Thus this dissertation seeks to explore the intellectual and poetic history of a number of key terms and to demonstrate the extent to which Jonson can be seen to conceive of simultaneously both new and old uses of these words in his distinctively renaissance context, an era characterized by radical change and innovation. In addition, this dissertation compares Jonson’s use of important words such as “book,” “sense,” and “author” to how other authors such as John Donne, George Herbert, John Milton, Shakespeare, Robert Southwell, and Sir Phillip Sidney use them, and demonstrates that these other authors were also to some extent aware of the complex etymological and intellectual history of particularly rich words. John Donne’s poem, Amicissimo & meritissimo for example, provides contemporary contextual evidence for Jonson’s curious understanding of poetic “labour” which aids understanding of the way Jonson redeploys classical language in the Renaissance. This dissertation is meant to be a reference work for a wide range of audiences, useful to both the Renaissance specialist and the undergraduate student alike, and aims to shed light on distinctively renaissance issues that would naturally lead to further inquiry and research.


beauty; etymology; imitation; jesuit; painting; philology


Arts and Humanities | Language Description and Documentation | Linguistics | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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