The “Living art” in The honorable history of friar bacon and friar bungay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The popularity and fantastic productions of natural philosophy drive the The Honorable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. Those creating and responding to the special effects compete across boundaries of place, of cultures, and of courts. In the end, Friar Bacon's demonstrates his dominance and in so doing defines nationalist exceptionality while showcasing theatre as the ultimate alchemy displaying it. The play celebrates English performance, stage art that out-alchemies alchemy. Theatre, the play suggests, best celebrates and protects English interests. It can take on anyone and anything, including in this play, science, magic, myths, history, Oxford, kings, and emperors. The competitive contests, for that is what they become in the play, include verbal sparring and quibbles that trade on the conventional metaphors of alchemy or the “Art,” as it is often referred to in the play. The dialogic war of words is additionally supported by extravagant spectacles signifying individual skill in the Art while also confronting its limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-289
Number of pages22
JournalBen Jonson Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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