(1572 - 1637) Jonson published his Works in 1616. At the time, not many of Jonson's contemporaries were having their works published because they either wrote for small coterie audiences, or (like Shakespeare) they wrote for theater companies that did not want to share their scripts. Some consider Jonson the first professional author in England, and if he was not, he was the first respectable author.

Jonson was the posthumous son of a London clergyman. He went to Westminster school until his financial resources ran out and he became a bricklayer like his stepfather. To escape this life, he joined the army. When he returned to London, he began to make a life as an actor and playwright. In 1597, he was imprisoned for a play, The Isle of Dogs, he wrote with Thomas Nashe. He also killed a fellow actor in a duel. He escaped the gallows because he could read Latin. While he was in prison, he converted to Catholicism. Later, he would return to the Church of England.

Jonson gradually built up his career. Although, Jonson got in trouble for some of his satirical works, he eventually rose to a respectable position in society despite his checkered past. He was a favorite of King James I.

The poets that followed Ben Jonson and met with him are called the Sons of Ben or the Tribe of Ben.

Ben Jonson's Plays

The Alchemist
Bartholomew Fair
The Case is Altered
Cynthia's Revels
The Devil is an Ass
Eastward Ho
Epicoene or The Silent Woman
Every Man in His Humour
Every Man out of His Humour
The Magnetic Lady
The New Inn
The Sad Shepherd
The Staple of News
Tale of a Tub
Volpone or The Fox

Ben Jonson's Poetry
see The Poetry of Ben Jonson

John Aubrey describes him thus.

He was (or rather had been) of a clear and faire skin; his habit was very plaine. I have heard Mr Lacy, the Player, say that he was wont to wear a coate like a coachman's coat, with slitts under the arme-pitts. He would many times exceed in drinke (Canarie was his beloved liquor) then he would tumble home to bed, and when he had thoroughly perspired, then to studie. I have seen his studyeing chaire, which was of strawe, such as olde woemen used, and as Aulus Gellius is drawen in.

Aubrey also mentions that Jonson had one eye lower than the other. Once he came upon women lamenting, and they told him it was a lawyer who was a kind and charitable man who had died. Amazed at this, Jonson extemporized this epitaph, the last line of which has become well known.

God works wonders now and then,
Behold a Miracle, deny't who can,
Here lies a
Lawyer and an honest man.
Jonson's place in Poets' Corner has already been mentioned by other noders. The small slab is well-known for having the surname spelt Johnson, not as we now spell it. Izaak Walton, quoted by Aubrey because he knew Jonson, explains.
When B.J. was dyeing King Charles sent him but x pounds.

He lies buryed in the north aisle in the path of square stone (the rest is Lozenge) opposite to the Scutcheon of Robertus de Ros, with this Inscription only on him, in a pavement square of blew marble, about 14 inches square,

which was done at the charge of Jack Young, afterwards knighted, who, walking there when the grave was covering, gave the fellow eighteen pence to cutt it.

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