Theme: actuality of ben jonson's comedy of his time content: introduction

Conclusion Ben Jonson and his role in English literature

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Ben Jonson and his role in English literature

Known primarily as a writer of comedies such as Every Man in His Humor (1598) and Every Man out of His Humor (1599) in the reign of Elizabeth, Ben Jonson's (1572-1637) most interesting plays were performed during the reign (called the Jacobean period) of her successor, King James I. Volpone (1606) and The Alchemist (1610) stand today as Jonson's most often produced plays. Both are broad comedies: Volpone plays on the foxiness of a dying man who is anxious to see which of his heirs is worthy, and The Alchemist is a satire on the wiliness of con men who pretend to know how to transmute base metal into gold. All of these plays were highly regarded in Jacobean times. In addition to his comedies, Jonson's tragedies Sejanus (1603) and Catiline (1611) earned him the description of "best in tragedy" from a contemporary who maintained a diary devoted to his experiences in the theater. Burt, Richard. Licensed by Authority: Ben Jonson and the Discourses of Censorship. New York: Cornell University Press, 1993

Jonson led an exciting life. Born after his father died, he was placed in the Westminster School at the expense of its master, William Camden, author of the famous survey Britannia. There Jonson learned Latin and Greek, but he himself said that instead of attending a university, he practiced his trade. Because Jonson's stepfather was a bricklayer, it has been assumed that Jonson learned that trade. He eventually grew tired of bricklaying and managed to get a job as an actor. In 1598, while a member of Philip Henslowe's theater, he killed a fellow actor in a brawl. He claimed self-defense and was granted "benefit of clergy," which was accorded those who could read and translate a Latin passage, but as punishment he carried a brand on his thumb from Tyburn, the place of execution and punishment, for the rest of his life.

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