Jonson, Ben

Tagged: Author

(1572-1637) English dramatist and poet, most noted for his astute and often highly satirical comedies, most notably Volpone (1605-6), The Alchemist (1610) which satirized the gullibility of a public ready to accept any pseudoscientific nostrum, and Bartholomew Fair (1614). Though his satires were so sharp that he was often in trouble with the authorities, he was nevertheless granted a pension by James I in 1616 which effectively made him the first poet laureate. Ben Jonson wrote a number of masques for the court of James I, in one of which, "Newes from the New World Discover'd in the Moone" (performed 1620; in The Workes of Benjamin Jonson, coll 1640 2vols), he became perhaps the first writer to use Galileo's discovery that the Moon had a landscape. Though the masque contains a subtle message that James should stick to his plans not to interfere in the Thirty Years War, it is presented as an account of a world structured much like our own with cities, parks, forests, markets and the like, but with the additional surreal touch that debtors could buy a cloud and hide from their creditors in it. Jonson also presided over a literary circle which met regularly at the Mermaid Tavern and which included among its number William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon. [PKi]

Benjamin Jonson

born in or near London: 11 June 1572

died London: mid-August 1637


  • The Workes of Benjamin Jonson (London: Printed for Richard Meighen, 1640) [coll: published in two volumes: "Newes from the New World Discover'd in the Moone" appears in volume two: binding unknown/]


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