"A man may have wit, and yet put off his hat" censorship in Ben Jonson's Bartholomew fair and A tale of a tub.
Ben Jonson’s career gives us an interesting window into English Renaissance censorship, since a number of his plays were scrutinized, altered, or suppressed by the authorities. In response to the critical consensus that Jonson’s negative view of censorship was mollified over time, this study looks at two comparatively later plays, Bartholomew Fair and A Tale of a Tub, for evidence of Jonson’s continued and even growing antipathy toward censorship. In particular, this study examines the Jonsonian trope of pretended obsequiousness as a pattern for understanding Jonson’s own behavior toward censorious authority. For instance, given the spirited defense of free speech in Bartholomew Fair, there is reason to doubt the sincerity of the Epilogue’s claim to submit to James’s censorship. Likewise, A Tale of a Tub, in both its composition history and
thematic treatment of censorship, illustrates Jonson’s antagonistic attitudes toward court involvement in artistic production.