Jonson, Ben

Biography: Playwright and poet. Of Scottish descent. Born London 1572/3. Attended a small parish school, then Westminster School, possibly admitted to St John's College, Cambridge for a few weeks (lack of money). Began work as a bricklayer for stepfather's business by 1590. Maintained guild membership even at the height of his career as a warrant of social standing. Joined English expeditionary forces to the Low Countries, early 1590s. Entered the theatre on his return but place and exact date are unclear. Earliest surviving play performed 1597. Next play, The Isle of Dogs caused great offence to the Queen, arrested and imprisoned for "Leude and mutynous behavior" Aug 1597. Released Oct 1597. Wrote many plays 1597-99, most have now disappeared. Every Man in his Humour, 1598, very successful. Indicted for manslaughter, 1598 (killed an actor in a duel). Escaped execution but branded as a convicted felon. Every Man out of his Humour performed 1599, The Fountain of Self-Love Sept 1600-May 1601, Poetaster 1601. Wrote a great deal on James I's accession to the throne, particularly royal entertainments. First commission for a court masque 1605, many more in the years to come. Famous, but recurrent troubles with authority 1603-12, briefly imprisoned 1605 for Eastward Ho!, charged with "popperie and treason" for Sejanus, charges of recusancy, Epicene banned. Set off for France and the Netherlands 1612-13. Granted royal pension Feb 1616. Folio edition Workes published Nov 1616. Visited Edinburgh 1618-9. Honorary degree, Oxford, 1619. Scholarly standing recognised by 1620s. Position at court less secure after Charles I's accession. The Staple of News performed 1626, The New Inn 1629, A Tale of a Tub 1633. Suffering from palsy and in poverty by 1628. Love's Triumph by Callipolis Jan 1631, Chloridia,Feb 1631, The Magnetic Lady 1632. Died London, Aug 1637.

Biography Date: 1572/3-1637

Biography References: Prov. Reg. Notes; LOC; CERL; DNB;


Book List

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