Ben Jonson, byname of Benjamin Jonson (born June 11?, 1572, London, England—died August 6, 1637, London) He is an English Stuart dramatist, lyric poet, and literary critic. He is generally regarded as the second most important English dramatist, after William Shakespeare, during the reign of James I. Among his major plays are the comedies Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone (1605), Epicoene; or, The Silent Woman (1609), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614)
Jonson was born two months after his father died.
His stepfather was a bricklayer, but by good fortune the boy was able to attend Westminster School. His formal education ended early, and he at first followed his stepfather’s trade, then fought with some success with the English forces in the Netherlands. On returning to England, he became an actor and playwright, experiencing the life of a strolling player. By 1597 he was writing plays for Philip Henslowe, the leading impresario for the public theatre Jonson apparently wrote tragedies as well as comedies in these years, but his extant writings include only two tragedies, Sejanus (1603) and Catiline (1611). The year 1598 marked an abrupt change in Jonson’s status, when Every Man in His Humour was successfully presented by the Lord Chamberlain’s theatrical company (a legend has it that Shakespeare himself recommended it to them), and his reputation was established.
His masques at court
Jonson won royal attention by his Entertainment at Althorpe, given before James I’s queen as she journeyed down from Scotland in 1603, and in 1605 The Masque of Blackness was presented at court. The “masque” was a quasi-dramatic entertainment, primarily providing a pretense for a group of strangers to dance and sing before an audience of guests and attendants in a royal court or nobleman’s house The few spoken words that the masque had demanded in Elizabethan days expanded into a “text” of a few hundred...
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