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Gothic RenaissanceA reassessment$
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Elisabeth Bronfen and Beate Neumeier

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719088636

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719088636.001.0001

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From grotesque to Gothic: Ben Jonson’s Masque of Queenes

From grotesque to Gothic: Ben Jonson’s Masque of Queenes

(p.113) 6 From grotesque to Gothic: Ben Jonson’s Masque of Queenes
Gothic Renaissance

Lynn S. Meskill

Manchester University Press

Questions of genre are central to Lynn Meskill’s exploration of the ‘proto-Gothic obsessions’ of Ben Jonson, who is probably one of the least likely Renaissance authors to be associated with such an endeavour. However, as Meskill persuasively argues, the ‘labyrinthine poetics’ of Jonson’s comedies and his masques in particular testify to a ‘seventeenth century Gothic as combination of Jacobean charnel house and the Grotesque’. Meskill reads The Masque of Queenes in terms of the grotesque and hybrid with regard to characters, genres, registers and references. In this context Jonson’s excessive notes on the margins turn into an ‘account of authorial creation of a kind of monster out of fragments and pieces’. Thus his marginal references to witchcraft (drawn from ‘a variety of sources … from antiquity, folktales, modern authorities, personal memories of stories and rumours’) serve both to rationalize and to heighten the effect of terror, which culminates in Jonson’s ‘monstrous mixing of the living and the dead’ in his ‘vision of Queen Anne’, ‘crowned by the dead’ queens of past ages.

Keywords:   grotesque, witchcraft, Ben Jonson, masque, genre hybridity, monstrous writing

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