“Oh, Terrible, Windy Words”: Witty Wordplay in Jonson’s Poetaster

Abstract

Renaissance dramatist Ben Jonson is lauded as a comedy writer extraordinaire. One of his most satirical farces, Poetaster, includes a scene involving a character’s vomiting. Beyond the obvious humor, Jonson uses this scene regarding Crispinus to assert sophisticated notions of language use, intellect, and oratory—observations for which the playwright is given too little credit in critical scholarship of the era. This essay fills this gap by examining the scene from a theoretical framework derived loosely from structural linguistics and classical rhetoric.

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