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by Ben Jonson

• Benjamin Jonson was a very famous


dramatist, writer and poet.
• He lived at the same time as William
Shakespeare, and the pair actually
knew each other. Shakespeare’s
theatre company produced several of
Jonson’s plays, and Shakespeare
acted in one of them (‘Every Man in
his Humour’).
• However, Ben Jonson doesn’t seem
to have been a huge fan of
Shakespeare’s.

• He was once told that Shakespeare


had never blotted (i.e. crossed out) a
line of text that he had written; in
response Mr Jonson said “Would he
had blotted a thousand...”
• Ben Jonson was born
in 1572 in
Westminster,
London.
• However, he claimed
that his family were
originally from the
Scottish Borders.
• He was sent to
school by his
parents and became
very well read.
• His first job was as a
bricklayer.
• In his lifetime, Ben Jonson killed two
men. The first he killed in the
Netherlands in single combat; the
second was an actor that he killed in
a duel.
• As punishment, Jonson was made to
relinquish his ‘goods and chattels’
and was branded on his thumb.
• Ben Jonson married some time
before 1594.

• We don’t know for sure who his wife


was, but there are records of a
woman named Ann Lewis marrying a
man named Ben Jonson around this
time.
• Ben Jonson’s eldest daughter, Mary,
died in 1593. She was six months
old.
• Ten years later his son, Benjamin,
also died of plague at the age of
seven.
• A second son, also named Benjamin,
died in 1635.
• Jonson is said to have had a vision of
his first son’s death in a dream.
• "he saw in a vision his eldest son
(then a child at London) appear unto
him with the marke of a bloodie cross
on his forehead as if it had been cut
with a sword”
• Houses affected by the plague were
marked with a red cross.
• The Black Death is thought to have
been caused by a disease called
Bubonic Plague.
• It is believed to have started in Asia
in the 14th century, where it is
estimated to have killed a third of
the population of China.
• Outbreaks occurred until as late as
the 20th Century.
• The total number of plague deaths is
estimated at 75 million.
• 30 – 60% of Europe’s population
were killed by plague.
• In 1340 the world’s population is
thought to have been around 443
million; in 1400 this had gone down
to between 350 – 374 million.
• The outbreak which killed Ben
Jonson’s son in 1603 killed 38,000
Londoners.
• They died by the hundreds, both day
and night, and all were thrown in ...
ditches and covered with earth. And
as soon as those ditches were filled,
more were dug. And I, Agnolo di Tura
… buried my five children with my
own hands … And so many died that
all believed it was the end of the
world.
• —The Plague in Siena: An Italian
• Victims of plague would have swollen
glands which leaked blood and pus.
• They may also have suffered terrible
pain from their skin decaying while
they were still alive (this would have
looked like black spots – hence the
name ‘black death’).
• Victims would have died within
around 4 – 7 days.
• People were
understandably
terrified of the
plague and didn’t
understand the
cause.
• Some took to self-
flagellation as
punishment for
their sins.
• Others blamed
groups of people –
lepers, Jews and
people with skin
conditions were
often singled out.
• Nowadays, the plague is easily
treatable with everyday antibiotics.