On this day… 11th June, 1572 – Ben Jonson born.
Ben Jonson (11 June 1572 – 6 August 1637) was an English playwright, poet, and literary critic of the seventeenth century, whose artistry exerted a lasting impact upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours. He is best known for the satirical plays Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone, or The Foxe (1605), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fayre: A Comedy (1614), and for his lyric poetry; he is generally regarded as the second most important English dramatist, after William Shakespeare, during the reign of James I.
Jonson was known as the most learned poet of the age, because, if his plays demanded any special knowledge, no subject was too hard, dry, or remote from common life for him to attempt to master it. He knew the boundaries of Bohemia, and he took pleasure in saying to a friend:
“Shakespeare in a play brought in a number of men saying they had suffered shipwreck in Bohemia, where is no sea near, by some hundred miles.”
It is pleasant to think that he was a friend of Shakespeare. Jonson’s pithy volume of prose, known as Discoveries Made upon Men and Matter, contains his famous criticism on Shakespeare, noteworthy because it shows how a great contemporary regarded him,
“I loved the man and do honor his memory on this side idolatry as much as any.”
Few English writers have received from a great rival author such convincing testimony in regard to lovable personality.
Did You Know?..
Ben Jonson killed two men in duels. For the greater part of his life, he was often occupied with pen and ink quarrels.