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Ben Jonson: A Life (Hardback)
  • Ben Jonson: A Life (Hardback)
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Ben Jonson: A Life (Hardback)

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£25.00
Hardback 560 Pages / Published: 27/10/2011
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Ben Jonson was the greatest of Shakespeare's contemporaries. In the century following his death he was seen by many as the finest of all English writers, living or dead. His fame rested not only on the numerous plays he had written for the theatre, but on his achievements over three decades as principal masque-writer to the early Stuart court, where he had worked in creative, and often stormy, collaboration with Inigo Jones. One of the most accomplished poets of the age, he had become - in fact if not in title - the first Poet Laureate in England. Jonson's life was full of drama. Serving in the Low Countries as a young man, he overcame a Spanish adversary in single combat in full view of both the armies. His early satirical play, The Isle of Dogs, landed him in prison, and brought all theatrical activity in London to a temporary - and very nearly to a permanent - standstill. He was 'almost at the gallows' for killing a fellow actor after a quarrel, and converted to Catholicism while awaiting execution. He supped with the Gunpowder conspirators on the eve of their planned coup at Westminster. After satirizing the Scots in Eastward Ho! he was imprisoned again; and throughout his career was repeatedly interrogated about plays and poems thought to contain seditious or slanderous material. In his middle years, twenty stone in weight, he walked to Scotland and back, seemingly partly to fulfil a wager, and partly to see the land of his forebears. He travelled in Europe as tutor to the mischievous son of Sir Walter Ralegh, who 'caused him to be drunken and dead drunk' and wheeled provocatively through the streets of Paris. During his later years he presided over a sociable club in the Apollo Room in Fleet Street, mixed with the most learned scholars of his day, and viewed with keen interest the political, religious, and scientific controversies of the day. Ian Donaldson's new biography draws on freshly discovered writings by and about Ben Jonson, and locates his work within the social and intellectual contexts of his time. Jonson emerges from this study as a more complex and volatile character than his own self-declarations (and much modern scholarship) would allow, and as a writer whose work strikingly foresees - and at times pre-emptively satirizes - the modern age.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780198129769
Number of pages: 560
Weight: 965 g
Dimensions: 236 x 149 x 40 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
It was a brilliant, epoch making, and memorable life superbly served by Ian Donaldson. Jonson earned his fame. This is and will remain the biography to have. * Ralph Berry, Contemporary Review *
A rare and valuable achievement. Elegant in style, flexible in approach, and characterised by a tone of intelligent curiosity, it is engaging as well as definitive. * Lisa Gorton, Australian Book Review *
Deeply researched but happily readable. * New York Review of Books *
absorbing biography * New Statesman *
fascinating portrait...brilliant biography * Daily Telegraph *
authoritative and lucid biography * Sunday Telegraph *
definitive biography of this quarrelsome playwright. * Sunday Times *
The biographical material on Jonson is extraordinarily rich...Donaldson's fine book is stocked with new material * The Guardian *
exemplary new biography...rich in detail and insights * The Guardian *
a work of clarity and lucidity, exact in its historical detail, full of new material and ingeniously suggestive in its conjecture and interpretation. * Sam Leith, Spectator *
Donaldson is ideally placed to write the definitive life, and he has done so. * John Carey, Sunday Times *
Ian Donaldson has written a splendid life of this extraordinary man, which all claimants to the "tribe of Ben" will savor and prize. * The Weekly Standard *
A learned biography, it cuts a revealing section through the Jacobean Age. * Michael Alexander, The Tablet *
His deep involvement with Jonson scholarship and criticism ... is apparent on every page of his authoritative, elegantly written, and illuminatingly illustrated biography. * Stanley Wells, New York Review of Books *
...one of the best literary biographies written in any era. * R.S White, Parergon. *

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