Bartholomew Fair


Zeal-of-the-land Busy is Jonson's second foray, after The Alchemist's Tribulation and Ananais, into a field of satire common in Jacobean drama: satire against Puritans. Various factors combined to make the godly or "precisians" obvious targets of ridicule. Though religious violence was comparatively uncommon in Jacobean England, the memory of such violence was fresh enough to make marginal believers or outsiders potential sources of anxiety or threat. This element of threat was especially notable in the second decade of James's reign, when the tenuous Calvinist consensus in the English Church began to disintegrate. In this context, stage attacks on the godly may have served to channel and release broader anxieties about social trends.

Playwrights also had a more immediate reason for this animosity; Puritans had opposed the public theatre almost from its inception. Hostility to drama was not, of course, limited to separatists or Puritans; preachers of all shades of belief denounced the plays as profane and the theatres as sites of theft, drunkenness, and licentiousness. Correctly or not, playwrights treated Puritans as the main source of these attacks. On stage, the Puritan is a hypocritical, judgmental, and long-winded figure, masking his lusts behind a vocal obsession with trivialities; Busy, for example, announces his intention to eat pork at the fair merely to refute the charges of "Judaism" he claims are levelled at Puritans, and he ends up consuming two whole pigs.

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