Definitions for jonson, ben

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  1. Jonson, Ben

    dramatist, born at Westminster, posthumous son of a clergyman of Scottish descent; was in his youth first a bricklayer, afterwards a soldier in the Netherlands, whence he returned about 1592; married a shrew, and became connected with the stage; he was one of the most learned men of his age, and for forty years the foremost, except Shakespeare, in the dramatic and literary world; killing his challenger in a duel nearly cost him his life in 1598; he was branded on the left thumb, imprisoned, and his goods confiscated; in prison he turned Catholic, but twelve years later reverted to Protestantism; the opening of the century brought an unpleasant difference with Dekker and Marston, and saw the famous Mermaid Club at its zenith; for nine years after Shakespeare's death he produced no dramas; in 1619 he received a degree, M.A., from Oxford, the laureateship, and a small pension from the king; now a widower, he founded with Herrick, Suckling, Carew, and others the Apollo Club at the Devil Tavern; in the new reign he turned again to dramatic work with sadly diminished power; he died in poverty, but was buried in Westminster Abbey, his tombstone bearing the words "O rare Ben Jonson"; he wrote at least sixteen plays, among them "Every Man is his Humour" (1598), in which Shakespeare acted, "The Poetaster" (1601), which vexed Dekker, the tragedy of "Sejanus" (1603), "The Silent Woman" (1609), a farcical comedy, Dryden's favourite play, and his most elaborate and masterly work, "The Alchemist" (1610); he wrote also thirty-five masques of singular richness and grace, in the production of which Inigo Jones provided the mechanism; but his best work was his lyrics, first of which stands "Drink to me only with thine eyes," whose exquisite delicacy and beauty everybody knows (1573-1637).

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