Scholarly figures and the conventions of mockery on the early modern English stage

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In this paper, I argue for the existence of a pervasive atmosphere of hostility toward knowledge workers in early modern England. My evidence consists of plays by Brome, Chapman, Heywood, Middleton, Shakespeare, and Sharpham; Ciceronian texts in the English grammar school curriculum, especially the de Officiis; and works by Erasmus and Bacon that bookend the period under consideration. My research challenges a prominent explanation, advanced by Lynn Enterline, for the dramatic characterization of the stock pedant on the English stage. The pedant is less special than scholars have hitherto assumed; he is, in fact, only one member of a broader class of scholarly figures subject to dramatic scorn. The grammar school curriculum, replete with writers promoting the superiority of action to contemplation, provided budding playwrights with literary precedent for their intellectual caricatures.

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English literature