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 Ben Jonson was a contemporary of Shakespeare

 he was educated at the Westminster School

 he practiced bricklaying
 he became an actor, but after a duel with a fellow actor
named Gabriel Spencer, he was put on trial and as a
result of his crime he was branded with the letter T
 he became one of the favourite figures at king James I’s
 As a secretary of Sir Walter Raleigh, he travelled to
Scotland -a Master of Arts degree; the title Poet
Laureate; the honour of knighthood
 In his last years he was assigned historian to the city of
 He was buried in the Poets’ Corner at Westminster
 concerned with formal rules, for Jonson the
dramatic formula came first
 he inspired himself from the classical models (the
rules of the dramatic structure, the function of
comedy, the type of humor)
 He is a great example of the Renaissance
Humanist (he applied rules derived from classical
theory or practice)
 He is an impressively original dramatist in his
ironically humorous view of human nature
 He is the first significant example of a literary
dictator in English LITERATURE
 he was a true and learned observer of
dramatic laws
 He opposed the romantic drama of the day
 His writings delineate a realistic picture of
English life and culture (greed for power and
lack of moral principles )
 his drama performed a social function
 his major aim was to expose the vices of
men: to ridicule the individual so that he may
be improved.
 comedy of intrigue in line with the Roman
comedy of Plautus and Terence
 satiric picture of contemporary human foibles
 the Prologue: his writing realistically opposes the
themes and conventions of contemporary drama
 a “comedy of humours”: every characters is
obsessed by one particular eccentricity
 An old theory of humours (Theophrastus and
Galen): four bodily fluids/ humours: blood,
phlegm, yellow bile (choler), black bile
(melancholy) determine the health and
disposition of a man.
 In contrast to his realistic intention he did not
present real human beings, but caricatures.
 He presents eccentrics, guided by one single
 The main character is Bobadill -a boasting
blusterer , is very skilfull in telling lies and
fooling everybody
 Comedy becomes satire and most frequently it
degenerates into farce.
 The action is set in London - Jonson’s real aim
was that of mocking at his contemporary society,
life and manners.
 Written in colloquial prose and with few instances
of blank verse
 the play exposes the obsessions and absurdities
of the characters.
 The satiric note is stronger
 the characters are given names indicative of their
foibles: Carlo Buffone- an obscene jester;
Fastidious Brisk-a dandy, Sordido (dirty)-
avaricious person, Fungoso- a law student who
imitates Fastidious Brisk in the matter of clothes;
Sogliardo –a clown, brother to Sordido
 the main character, Asper (Lat. harsh) comments
on the action and acts as a pitiless judge of
morals and of society
 Situations are not coherently connected which
makes the play more episodic.
 starts from Petronius’ captatores, the legacy hunters of Rome
 Jonson gives the story of a rich old Venetian gentleman who
is passionately in love with his gold
 Volpone pretends he is mortally ill so that his wealthy
neighbours, just as greedy and avaricious as he himself,
would offer him favours in the hope of inheriting his fortune
 The legacy hunters struggle to prove their devotion to
 His servant Mosca cunningly plays on their expectations and
 The action is set in Italy (the home of vice), but the satire is
general (the way lust for wealth can degrade human beings)
 . Jonson appeals to extravagant imagery ( the obsessive
nature of the characters’ drive for wealth is sanctioned)
 Dominated by one humour , the characters restrictively move
around their single predominant traits.