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In these two plays Jonson was trying to ‘regularize’ English stage comedy that is, to bring it more in accordance with the ‘rules’ of drama which Renaissance critics had evolved from their study of the Ancients. Jonson had a very tidy and well-organized mind and a strong sense of fact, and as he says in many places. (including the Preface to Volpone) he could not bear the incompetent construction and slipshod writing of much Elizabethan drama, nor its ‘romantic’ improbabilities and absurdities.

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Ben Jonson

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St Martin's Press New York

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Category: Tag: Product ID: 25453


Nobody knows exactly when or where Ben Jonson was born, but it was probably in 1572 and in London. His father, who was a clergyman, died before Ben was born, and his mother married again; her second husband is described as ‘a bricklayer’, but he was probably rather more what we would call a ‘jobbing builder’, and seems to have been quite successful. The family lived near Trafalgar Square, and all his life Jonson never moved far from the centre of London. He went to Westminster School, where he was taught by the famous scholar and antiquary William Camden, but he seems never to have attended a university, or at the most only for a very short time. Probably his family was too poor to send him to Oxford or Cambridge and instead he was apprenticed when he left school to his stepfather’s trade. Disliking bricklaying, he enlisted as a soldier and served in the English Expeditionary Force in the Netherlands. Apart from this, very little is known of his early life until he began to become known, about 1597, as a dramatist. He may have started in the theatre as an actor tradition says not a very good one. He had his first big success in 1598 with Every Man in his Humour, which was per- formed by Shakespeare’s company with Shakespeare in the cast, and in 1599 he followed it up with Every Man out of his Humour.



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