Talk about how Ben Jonson does not follow the rules of Jacobean dramaturgy in Volpone.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ben Jonson's Jacobean comedic play Volpone, he deviates from the conventions of Jacobean comedy in at least two regards. In doing so, Jonson believed he was restoring dramaturgy (the craft or technique of dramatic or comedic composition) to its prescribed state.

In the Elizabethan era of the Renaissance, playwrights, and especially the premier playwright William Shakespeare, had developed new conventions for both comedy and drama, theatrical traditions that originally had their definitive roots in Aristotle's Poetics. Some of these new conventions were that the Greek Chorus was traded for Fools and Clowns; action occurring offstage and described by the Chorus was brought onstage; the unities of time and place were violated, for example Hamlet covers many months' time; tragedies required the tragic hero to have gone so wrong that the only logical end could be his death; catharsis came to mean the audiences vicarious association with the emotions of the play rather than the logical fulfillment of the hero's actions; comedies celebrated virility with ribald humor and had happy endings.

The Jacobean era playwrights inherited this Elizabethan traditions and made them bolder and in some cases more violent. This is where Jonson disagreed. Jonson, as he explains in the Epistle to Volpone, that the Greek Aristotelian model should still be adhered to and that a moral must be taught in comedy as well as in drama. For Volpone, this meant that the unities were respected (Volpone is said to occur in a 24-hour time period); the Chorus was reinstated, although it was accompanied by clowns; and an unhappy ending which taught a strong moral lesson was requisite for the deceptive and manipulative behavior of the scoundrel of a hero.