The Entertainment at Britain's Burse

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The Entertainment at Britain’s Burse is a newly discovered masque (kind of play) written by Ben Jonson in 1609[1] and commissioned by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, in celebration of the opening of the “New Exchange” (essentially a shopping mall).[2] This masque was discovered by James Knowles and published in 1997.[3] It is an unusual Johnson text because it seems to be in celebration of consumer culture while so many of his other plays and poems condemn it—though there might be some satire intended. There are essentially only three characters. Each character performs a rather lengthy monologue including two songs by the final actor.

The masque begins with “The Key Keeper” who welcomes a “Maiestie” and “roiall lady” assumed to be the king (James I) and the queen to the New Exchange. The Key Keeper describes the exchange like a “newe region,” a place still foreign to himself containing many unexplored wonders. Then a “Shop Boy” describes all the many things for sell beginning and ending his speech asking “what doe you lacke?” Then “The Master”—the owner of the shop—picks up where the shop-boy left off. He describes the many “mysterious” commodities and his adventures acquiring them. The play concludes with the master desiring wealth, saying, “And god make me Rich, which is the sellers prayer.”


  1. ^ Baker, David J. (Spring 2005). ""The Allegory of a China Shop": Jonson's Entertainment at Britain's Burse". ELH. 72 (1): 159–180. JSTOR 30029966. 
  2. ^ David J. Baker. "The Allegory of a China Shop": Jonson's "Entertainment at Britain's Burse". 72, No. 1 (Spring, 2005). The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 159–180. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  3. ^ Scott, Alison V. (September 2006). "Marketing Luxury at the New Exchange: Jonson's Entertainment at Britain's Burse and the Rhetoric of Wonder". Early Modern Literary Studies. 12 (2): 5.1–19. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 

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