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The Invention of SuspicionLaw and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama$
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Lorna Hutson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212439

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212439.001.0001

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Jonson's Justices and Shakespeare's Constables: Sexual Suspicion in the Evidential Plot

Jonson's Justices and Shakespeare's Constables: Sexual Suspicion in the Evidential Plot

Chapter:
(p.303) 7 Jonson's Justices and Shakespeare's Constables: Sexual Suspicion in the Evidential Plot
Source:
The Invention of Suspicion
Author(s):

Lorna Hutson (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212439.003.0008

This chapter suggests that we should read Shakespeare's drama written after 1597 as generally responding to the direction in which Ben Jonson was taking the evidential plot and its rhetoric of probability. It argues that as Jonson increasingly translates ‘probability’ from its ethical/rhetorical sense into a sense which privileges the power to predict and calculate, Shakespeare, in turn, increasingly demonizes the dramatic figure of the man who can invent probable arguments of suspicion. The chapter illustrates this argument by looking at Jonson's The Alchemist, Epicoene, and Bartholomew Fair, and at Shakespeare's Hamlet and Othello. It concludes by contrasting Jonson's assumption, in Every Man in his Humour, that inventions of sexual suspicion are easily exposed and harmless, with Shakespeare's sceptical dramatization, in Much Ado about Nothing, of the pointlessness of evidence where faith is lacking.

Keywords:   rhetoric of probability, mimesis, circumstances, Alchemist, Epicoene, Bartholomew Fair, Every Man in his Humour, Othello, Hamlet, Much Ado about Nothing

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