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454 LEITERS IN CANADA 1997 more attention to Marlowe, Fletcher, Webster, Massinger, Dekker, and Heywood might complicate neat binary oppositions considerably. The remaining three chapters discuss comedy, tragedy, and gender issues in selected plays to make the case for Shakespeare moving towards the private, inward, and unknowable, Jonson more obviously trying to reclaim the public and political for the stage, and Middleton adopting a parodic and self-critical theatrical stance. While all of the analysis is astute and perceptive, some readers may find that, despite his disclaim.ers, Yachnin pushes his thesis a bit too hard. How persuaded will we be that the main explanation for the darkness of Shakespeare's Jacobean comedies lies in Shakespeare's having felt degraded by the corrunercial success of his earlier plays? Is a personal 'project of legitimation' the only explanation for Middleton's different approach to female c.haracter nearly twenty years later? Should not a discussion of the meaning of Jaques's 'seven ages of man' speech include its ironic undercutting in performance by, for example, the entry of Orlando and Adam as counter-examples of the third and seventh ages? Nevertheless, this book presents a powerful and persuasive argument for the significance of theatre without political power, and the resultant need to take account of the institutional politics and cultural agenda of theatre itself, and of the self-aware individuals who negotiated their positions within such a context. (DAVID CARrlliGIE) Helen Ostovich, editor. Ben fot~son: Four Comedies Longman. xi, 6g6. us$32.25 'o RARE BEN JONSON' rea~s Jonson's epitaph; not the least paradoxical aspect of that rarity, in the context of his contemporaries at least, is the profusion of serviceable texts of his work available to students of it. Helen Ostovich has now added to this largesse with her edition of the four major comedies, part of the Longman Annotated Texts series. Intended primarily for undergraduate and graduate students, the edition provides a remarkable wealth of commentary and other supplementary material. In addition to the general introduction, containing a brief life of Jonson and thematic introductions to Volpone, Epicoene, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, each of the four playtexts is accompanied by a second introduction dealing with setting, sources, stage history, and suggestions for further reading. The texts themselves are extensively annotated, ranging from basic glossing to extensive critical and theatrical commentary. Following each play is a list of selected textual variants. The material surrounding the texts is in general defined by its solidity and utility. The discussion of the plays in the general introduction is broken down into thematic units: 'The anarchy of the fair,''Authority, licence, and warrant,' and 'The daughters of Eve: wives and whores' make up, for HUMANJTIES 455 example, the topics for discussion in Bartholomew Fair. As the last item suggests, sexual roles and identities are prominent among them, with emphasis upon the degree to which women within the plays are represented as a threat, real or potentiaL to the masculine order, one which is generally met with repression and margi,nalization, The various resistance strategies open to women and their implications are likewise dealt with at length. Classical models, primarily Aristophanic) and topical references also receive significant attention. Throughout discussion is enlivened by Ostovich's clear, and sometimes provocative/ voice. Jonsonians being a disputatious lot, many of her individual points are likely to provoke dissent, but few will wish to take issue with the general thrust of her analysis. Setting, stage history, and suggestions for further reading are likewise helpfuL It is the annotations, however, that are perhaps the most significant aspect of this edition; they explain the bulk of this reasonably hefty book, and perhaps the equally hefty price as well. A large part of such annotation is of course taken up with the extensive glossing increasingly required by undergraduates confronted with the density of Jonson's language; it goes well beyond such a limited ftmction, however, to offer com1nentary both learned and illuminating. Few who are dealing seriously with these plays will not find occasion to consult them on matters both small and large. The theatrical dimension of the plays is given welcome emphasis in the annotations/ with a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 454-455
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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