The Self-Centred Art is a study of the plays of Ben Jonson and the actors who first performed in them.

Jakub Boguszak shows how the idiosyncrasies of Jonson’s comic characters were thrown into relief in actors’ part-scripts—scrolls containing a single actor’s lines and cues—some five hundred of which are reconstructed here from Jonson’s seventeen extant plays. Reading Jonson’s spectating parts, humorous parts, apprentice parts, and plotting parts, Boguszak argues that the kind of self-absorption which defines so many of Jonson’s famous comic creations would have come easily to actors relying on these documents. Jonson’s actors would have moreover worked on their cues, studied their speeches, and thought about the information excluded from their parts differently, depending on the type they had to play. Boguszak thus shows that Jonson brilliantly adapted his comedies to the way the actors worked, making the actors’ self-centredness serve his art.

This book addresses Jonson’s dealings with the actors as well as the printers of his plays and supplements the discussion of different types of parts with a colourful range of case studies. In doing so, it presents a new way of understanding not just Ben Jonson, but early modern theatre at large.

chapter |11 pages


chapter 1|20 pages

Reconstructing Jonson's parts

chapter 2|16 pages

Jonson's revisions

chapter 3|19 pages

Jonson among the actors

chapter 4|17 pages

Spectating parts

chapter 5|22 pages

Humorous parts: sweet fools

chapter 6|22 pages

Humorous parts: bitter fools

chapter 7|23 pages

Apprentice parts

chapter 8|18 pages

Plotting parts

chapter 9|23 pages

All parts assembled

chapter 10|16 pages

Taking the measure of Jonson's plays