Jonson's Acoustic-Oriented Dramaturgy in the First Folio Playtexts of Epicoene and The Alchemist

Christopher D. Foley, University of Southern Mississippi


One significant yet understudied aspect of the First Folio printings of Epicoene and The Alchemist is that their marginal stage directions highlight the importance of Jonson's acoustic-oriented dramaturgy to both plays. In light of Jonson's recurrent associations between exposure to noise pollution and the threat of plague, this essay reads Jonson's acoustic-oriented dramaturgy in Epicoene and The Alchemist as a direct engagement with the contemporary plague-time performance settings of both plays. Moreover, when considered alongside the numerous site-specific engagements of both printed playtexts, what becomes clear is that Jonson's acoustic-oriented dramaturgy assumes an important satirical dimension directed at these plays’ earliest London audiences. First, in part through his acoustic manipulation of the indoor performance environments of the Whitefriars and Blackfriars theaters, Jonson satirically critiques the fantasies of social exclusivity embodied by Morose and Lovewit. Equally importantly, by drawing dramaturgical inspiration from the ambivalent experience of playgoing during an ongoing plague outbreak, Jonson also critiques the fantasies of social exclusivity evident among his plague-time comedies’ well-to-do London audiences.