Prof. G. Steinberg
Pick a poem by Jonson, any poem in today's assignment. As I mentioned in class, Jonson's writing is very precise and deceptively simple. There's almost always something more going on in a Jonson poem than appears on the surface. Jonson is, for example, very political. He was a popular poet at King James's court, and he viewed James's reign as a golden era in English history. At the same time, he had a rather pessimistic view of human nature (his plays, for example, are almost always about clever people maliciously tricking poor, innocent people and getting away with their scams for a while before they are caught and mercilessly punished for their crimes). In particular, he had a low opinion of the masses, whom he tended to view as uneducated and motivated purely by greed and stupidity.
So, what are the political implications of the poem you've chosen? What kind of social values does the poem espouse? Are those the social values of the establishment (i.e., James's court)? How does the poem view human nature? Are humans basically bad, malicious people who deserve merciless punishment for their crimes? Are the lower classes basically greedy and stupid? Are the upper classes better than the lower classes? When things work out right, why do they work right?
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