‘Masters both of arts and lies’: Metadrama and the Informer in Poetaster and Sejanus

Bill Angus

in Metadrama and the Informer in Shakespeare and Jonson

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print November 2016 | ISBN: 9781474415118
Published online May 2017 | e-ISBN: 9781474426886 | DOI:
‘Masters both of arts and lies’: Metadrama and the Informer in Poetaster and Sejanus

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This chapter explores Jonson’s metadramatic technique in Sejanus and Poetaster and its staging of the legitimacy of poetic and political authority. The informer lurks in the metadramatic shadows here, as a significant element within both Jonson’s critique of compromised authority in Sejanus, and the implications he makes in Poetaster, about his artistic enemies. In both cases their authority is tainted by the connection, going beyond simply blaming informers for the woes of his society, the most significant aspect of this is the way in which metadrama and the structures of informing fit so integrally together. The chapter also asks what this means for the person of the author. If Poetaster addresses the relationship between poetic legitimacy and political authority within the world of the informer, Sejanus elevates this discourse to the realm of political revolution, in which, for the authorities of the time, Jonson’s desire to monopolise poetic legitimacy in the production of his own dramatic authority seems ambitiously excessive.

Keywords: metadramatic; technique; legitimacy; informer; authority; structures; author; political; revolution; poetic

Chapter.  8248 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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