Epicene, or The Silent Woman
by Ben Jonson
Edited by Richard Dutton
Publication date:01 September 2008
Length of book:360 pages
PublisherManchester University Press
Epicene is now one of the most widely-studied of Johnson's plays. Brilliantly exploiting the Jacobean convention whereby boys played female roles, it satirises the newly fashionable and sexually ambiguous world of the West End of London, where courtly wit rubs shoulders with commercial values. This authoritative new edition, now in paperback, is based on a thorough re-examination of the earliest texts. The introduction analyses the play as originally written for the newly formed Children of the Queen's Revels, and performed at the little-known Whitefriars Theatre. Dutton discusses the composition of the play, which took place during a critical period in Jonson's life and career, when he was established as the principal writer of entertainments at the court. His relationships at this time, with ambitious wits such as John Donne, Sir Edward Herbert and the actor Nathan Field, are examined as models for the principal characters. This challengingly historicised text of Epicene will be essential reading for all serious students of early modern drama.