"A certain middling thing": Locating identity in Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair

Walsh, Daniel (2007) "A certain middling thing": Locating identity in Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis aims to delineate and subsequently test a model of individual identity that draws on a number of aspects of cultural theory as well as of communication studies. The model is envisaged as dynamic in form, postulating that identity is not solely the result of the individual's expression of it by giving equal weight of importance to the role of the perceiver. In short, it is suggested by this thesis that the location of an individual's identity should be shifted away from the individual in favour of being located somewhere in the tension between the individual's expression of identity and the interpretation of another. Such a process of identity formation is necessarily dynamic because the two interpretations are often in competition and as such shift regularly. Furthermore this thesis asserts that identity is not the result of innovative creation but rather is constructed from materials that have, or are, already in use in the identities of others.
The dynamic model of identity formation thus established, the thesis then turns to the text of Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair. The model is explored using this text by first identif'ing evidence of its operation in the relationships between characters, particularly focusing on the way in which clothing and language are utilised in order to convey meaning in identity. This is, however, on the basis for such exploration and it is the task of this thesis to then use such relationships in order to investigate the theme of representation in the play. The thesis concludes by suggesting that the play and the theatre may represent the means and environment through which Jonson explores the construction of his own identity.

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