Ben Jonson

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Benjamin Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – 6 August 1637) was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best,[1] and his lyric poems. A man of vast reading and a seemingly insatiable appetite for controversy, Jonson had an unparalleled breadth of influence on Jacobean and Caroline playwrights and poets.

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Biography

Although he was born in Westminster, London, Jonson claimed his family was of Scottish Border country descent, and this claim may have been supported by the fact that his coat of arms bears three spindles or rhombi, a device shared by a Borders family, the Johnstones of Annandale. His father died a month before Ben's birth, and his mother remarried two years later, to a master bricklayer.[2] Jonson attended school in St. Martin's Lane, and was later sent to Westminster School, where one of his teachers was William Camden. Jonson remained friendly with Camden, whose broad scholarship evidently influenced his own style, until the latter's death in 1623. On leaving, Jonson was once thought to have gone on to the University of Cambridge,[3] but Jonson himself contradicts this, saying that he did not go to university, but was put to a trade, probably bricklaying, immediately: a legend recorded by Thomas Fuller indicates that he worked on a garden wall in Lincoln's Inn. He soon had enough of the trade and spent some time in the Low Countries as a volunteer with the regiments of Francis Vere. In conversations with poet William Drummond of Hawthornden, subsequently published as the Hawthornden Manuscripts, Jonson reports that while in the Netherlands he killed an opponent in single combat and stripped him of his weapons.[4]

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