Varhaiset kirja-arvostelijatWilliam Cavendish
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Giveaway Ended: March 27 at 06:00 pm EDT
A fragmentary comedy about the corruption of the judicial and monarchical systems in charge of granting aristocratic titles based on appearance instead of merit.
This comedy includes several devices that are uniquely typical of Jonson’s authorial style, including the extraordinary number of five marriages in the resolution, and the intricate descriptions of the significance of outward appearance (in dance, clothing, makeup and gossip) in distinguishing anybody in Britain as superior or inferior. At the onset of the plot, Sir William is hoping to marry the wealthy-widow, Lady Beaufield, to gain access to her fortune. In parallel, Simpleton’s wealthy-widow Mother is hoping to marry a knight so she can gain the aristocratic title of a Lady. Meanwhile, Simpleton is courting Beaufield’s daughter, Lucy, who clearly favors her other suitor, Newman. Simpleton devises several schemes to win an advantage by hiring jeerers to ridicule Newman, as well as hiring Voluble to give Newman a false prophecy to manipulate him toward whoring and drinking. By the end, Simpleton even attempts to kidnap Lucy to force her into marriage.
In the background of these various courtships, the French dance teacher, Galliard, is tutoring his wealthy students in dance. And Voluble and Nice are teaching proper manners, dress and other outward signs of aristocratic breeding in their Female Academy. These seemingly silly and pretty tropes are clouding the fact that Galliard confesses he has escaped being executed for attempting to overthrow the French King in 1632, and Voluble is repeatedly accused of witchcraft. More importantly, the narrative explains the corrupt process that was involved in bribing judges and administrators into allowing a wealthy gentry landowner, like Mother, to purchase her way into the aristocracy through a vacant baronet title. Mother merely has to choose between going through the ladyfying schooling herself, or completely negating her burden by hiring an actress, such as Nice (the chambermaid), to pretend to be her in public appearances. The dialogue refers to several people who were granted aristocratic titles by this corrupt process, starting with the 1st Lord of Lorne of Scotland in 1439, and as late as the Duke of Buckingham in 1623. Many of the contextual references mention the Percys’ Northumberland estate’s Scottish neighbors, as well as other Percy-associated places and people in the Buckingham Palace and Newcastle; thus, this play is likely to have been closeted by Percy until after his death because Jonson was criticizing the Percys’ involvement in these title-purchasing schemes.
Percy (as the primary ghostwriter) and Jonson (as the secondary) had written about knighthood-purchasing and James I’s trade in titles to his Scottish and Scottish-adjacent comrades in Eastward Ho! These frank confessions about corruption in the monarchy led to Jonson’s temporary imprisonment in 1605. This volume includes translations of all of Jonson’s authentic letters. These include the letter he wrote in 1605, during this Eastward imprisonment, wherein Jonson asks Percy to help free him from being implicated in seditious remarks that he claims were Percy’s portion of the composition. The annotations across Variety provide a myriad of scholarly revelations, supported with precise evidence. One of these is new proof for the misdating for several antique-like forgeries of broadsheet ballads. Introductory sections explain why this play has been mis-attributed to “William Cavendish”, and the complex biographical overlaps between the Jonson and “John Donne” bylines and handwriting styles. The historical introduction to the types of dance-instructors Variety is satirizing is assisted by the translation from French into English of fragments from Apologie de la Danse or Apology for the Dance by “Par F. de Lauze” (1623).
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