Ben Jonson and the Story of Charis

Ian Donaldson

Abstract


'A Celebration of Charis in Ten Lyric Pieces' (The Underwood, 2) is one of the most attractive and seemingly most accessible of all Ben Jonson's poetic works. Subtle, humorous, and enchanting, these often admired lyrics appear at a casual reading to present few problems of exegesis or interpretation. Yet the sequence has provoked sharply divergent readings over recent years. There is continuing disagreement amongst critics about the tone and seriousness of the sequence, about the contexts (intellectual, historical, and literary) within which it may need to be understood, and even about the main outlines of the narrative which these seemingly simple lyrics seemingly unfold.

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