Bartholmew Fair (New Mermaids)
February 20, 2014  /  224 pages  (is this book fiction or nonfiction?)
Early modern London - too foggy and Protestant to have a carnival -
offered its inhabitants commercial events during which to indulge their
need for bodily delights and festival exuberance. The fair of St
Bartholmew, held anually in Smithfield on 24 August, served Jonson as
an opportunity to dissect a wide cross-section of Londoners and their
various reasons for spending a day out among the booths, stalls, smells
and noises of the fair. Unusually magnanimous for a Jonsonian city
comedy, the main thrust of the satire is not against fools, madmen,
fortune-hunters, cuckolds or prostitutes, but against hypocrisy and
bigotry. This edition shows that the play can be read as a
comprehensive refutation of puritanism and the London magistracy, both
of whom were attacking the theatre (and the festive culture of which it
was still part) as idolatrous, seditious and disorderly.
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