All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter: Plainness and Eloquence in Jonson, Donne, and Herbert
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This thesis traces a stylistic development from the dichotomy of plainness and eloquence in Elizabethan style, through the stylistic innovations of Ben Jonson and John Donne to the ultimate synthesis of the two styles in George Herbert's poetry. To accomplish this, the thesis reads a selection of their works closely, paying particular attention to the effects of style on the reader's reception of a poem's content. A progression is observed, in which Jonson demonstrates that ornamental language does not necessarily obscure truth; Donne uses that eloquence for didactic purposes, to illuminate paradoxical truth; and Herbert enlists delightful language within a plain style in his effort to communicate persuasively in his devotional lyrics. Thus the development of the “metaphysical” style is read not as an adoption of classical or continental style, but as a response to the problems of style inherited from the Elizabethan dichotomy between plainness and eloquence.