Ben Jonson's Eloquent Nonsense: The Noisy Ordeals of Heard Meanings on the Jacobean Stage (1609-14)


  • Hristomir A Stanev University of Louisville



Ben Jonson, noise, Timber, Discoveries


Ben Jonson’s avid staging of noise, aural loss, and inadequate heard meanings in Epicene (1609) and Bartholomew Fair (1614) transforms the plays into peculiar venues for studying and negotiating early modern histories and theories of auditory reception. The ordeals of hearing in each play further betray deeper concerns with the increasingly alienating nature of voiced forms of communication in Jonson’s overpopulated urban setting. This study uncovers local histories of aural failure which indicate that the plays were meant to be heard and in so doing question the very nature of hearing both in the crowded playhouses and within the extended topographic perimeter of Jacobean London

Author Biography

Hristomir A Stanev, University of Louisville

Hristomir A. Stanev ( is an assistant professor in the department of English at the University of Louisville, KY, USA. He studies sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British drama, the impact of metropolitan expansion on the early modern imagination, as well as the history of senses and sensation in literature. His forthcoming monograph, Sensory Experience and the Metropolis on the Jacobean Stage (1603-1625), seeks to expand the field of social and literary perception around otherwise less tractable phenomena, such as suburban formation, sonic pollution, and the development of built-in city space.