Mapping Jacobean London

This project is primarily a digital, interactive map of Jacobean London, which provides an alternative apparatus for reading three Jacobean City Comedies. By digitally mapping the locations that are central to these plays I hope to show that the geography of London and the negotiation of space is central to any interpretation of Jacobean city comedy. This project was begun as an M.A Capstone Project at Georgetown University.

The term ‘city comedy’ has been in fairly constant scholarly use since the 1980s, and while there is no widely accepted definition, most critics seem to agree the city of London unites these plays. James D. Mardock proposes perhaps the broadest and “simplest definition of the popular subgenre of early seventeenth-century drama that critics have variously identified as ‘city comedy’, ‘citizen comedy’, or ‘London comedy’ – or at least the one aspect that most critics can agree on – is that they are plays set in the contemporary London of their audiences” (45), while Jean E. Howard suggests that we “think of these plays as sometimes confused attempts to come to terms with a complicated and changing city” (22). I would like to take ‘the negotiation of London’s urban space’ as the central theme of the city comedy, and to bring the representation of that space to the forefront of our interpretations of the genre.

The city comedies that I am reading in this way are Jonson, Chapman, and Marston’s Eastward Ho, Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl, and Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair. These plays all locate themselves in London and its suburbs and structure their drama around their characters’ successful or failed attempts to navigate that space. You can find a fuller description of the plays and their interactions with the city on their individual pages.

‘Mapping Jacobean London’ is designed to be a teaching resource for teachers, undergraduate, and graduate students studying Jacobean drama. I hope that by prioritising the visual representation of space this project will provide an alternative apparatus for teaching city comedies that are often perceived as inaccessible by students and teachers alike.

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