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The papers in this volume were given by some of the world’s foremost Jonsonian scholars at a conference at the University of Toronto which marked the 400th anniversary of his birth. Each contributor came from a different institution, and Canada, the United States, Great Britain, and New Zealand were represented. The balance of papers likewise reflects the range of Ben Jonson’s achievement and the combination of brio and control so characteristic of him.
The papers arrange themselves in pairs: ‘The Incredibility of Jonsonian Comedy,’ as discussed by Professor Clifford Leech, is of a piece with distrust and defiance of the audience as discussed in the paper ‘Jonson and the Loathèd Stage’ by Professor Jonas Barish; Professor George Hibbard in ‘Ben Jonson and Human Nature’ and Professor D.I. McKenzie in ‘The Staple of News and the Late Plays’ offer critical assessment of plays, the one wide-ranging, the other closely focused on a previously neglected play; and Professor H.N. Maclean in ‘"A More Secret Cause”: The Wit of Jonson’s Poetry’ and Professor L.C. Knights in ‘Ben Jonson: Public Attitudes and Social Poetry’ approach the difficult and rewarding task of defining Jonson’s poetry of appraisal in different but complementary styles.