Set in Ancient Rome, “Poetaster” offers one of the first and most subtle statements in English of the Augustan cultural ideal. Jonson contrasts Augustus’ wise rule with an English polity dominated (like the stage) by malice, intrigue and envy. This text examines these different strands so skilfully interwoven by Jonson, and argues for a reassessment of “Poetaster” as one of the most ideologically interesting of all early modern plays. The accompanying explanatory notes guide the reader through the personal and political illusions which gave the play its immediate satirical impact.
Tom Cain is Professor of Early Modern Literature at the University of East Anglia
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