Jonson's Satire of Puritanism in 'The Alchemist'

Jeanette D. Ferreira-Ross


It has become a commonplace in Jonsonian criticism to refer to the dramatically effective use of cant, particularly in The Alchemist and Bartholomew Fair. Alexander Sackton has identified Jonson's contribution to the modem connotation of the word 'cant' as 'the use of the special phraseology of a particular class or subject' while Jonas Barish has made a detailed study of the 'linguistic caricature', focusing in an illuminating way on the characteristic cliches, formulas and rhythms of the Puritan pulpit and the logic of the casebook as a means of suggesting hypocrisy in Bartholomew Fair. What has not been adequately explored, however, is the accuracy with which Jonson contextualizes his Puritan figures.

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