Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


English Literature


W.G. Roebuck




This study will discuss and seek to clarify the
significance of Ben Jonson's use of names in the Epigrammes,
as published in his 1616 folio edition of the Workes. My
central argument here is that Jonson's use of names in this
text is an integral part of an effort to preform a social
performance. Jonson, in accordance with the Christian
humanist view that poetry should morally edify its reader,
attempts to modify the thought and behavior of an
anticipated reader by disseminating an ideologically
influenced interpretation of ordinary social phenomena -- a
social performance -- in his poetry.

Jonson's repeated use of names in the "Epigrammes"
will be read as reflecting a commitment to both confirm and
conform to a Christian mythos which incorporates and
services a dichotomous view of reality. At its most basic
level, my paper will show that Jonson dichotomizes his
collection of Epigrammes by giving names as a reward to some
subjects and attributing mock-names as punishments to
others. From this observation I will argue that for Jonson
the name acts as a cornerstone of an interpretation of a
social performance that has religious, political, cultural
and personal implications.

The merit of this study is that it places Jonson's
use of names in an expansive context. Criticism to date on
the subject has treated names only as a means to show that
the collection possesses a unity of form and function. In
this study Jonson's use of names is not looked upon as an
isolated event whose significance is strictly limited to the
text of the Epigrammes. Historical, sociological and
psychological aspects of naming are discussed and related to
naming in Jonson's Epigrammes. By incorporating materials
from a number of disciplines the study allows the religious
and political significances of the action of naming to be
fully appreciated. Such an approach to the subject of
naming in the Epigrammes has never been attempted. In the
end, the true value of this study is that affirms that
naming is a vital form of expression in Jonson's poetic art.

McMaster University Library

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