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Shakespeare Studies: Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson (1572 - 1637)

Jonson is among the greatest writers and theorists of English Literature. A prolific Elizabethan dramatist and a man of letters highly learned in the classics, he profoundly influenced the coming Augustan Age through his emphasis on the precepts of Horace, Aristotle, and other early thinkers.  While he is now remembered primarily for his satirical comedies, he also distinguished himself as a poet, preeminent writer of masques, erudite defender of his work, and the originator of English literary criticism. Jonson's professional reputation is often obscured by that of the man himself: bold, independent, aggressive, fashioning for himself an image as the sole arbiter of taste, standing for erudition and the supremacy of classical models against what he perceived as the general populace's ignorant preference for the sensational. While his direct influence can be seen in each genre that he undertook, his ultimate influence is considered to be a legacy of literary craftsmanship, a strong sense of artistic form and control, and his role in bringing, as Alexander Pope noted, "critical learning into vogue." 

 Excerpted from Drama Criticism. Ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994. p222-294.

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