Skip to main content

Shakespeare Studies: Ben Jonson

A guide for students and professors interested in the study of Shakespeare's life and works

Ben Jonson (1572 - 1637)

 Jonson is among the greatest writiers and theorists of English Literature.  A prolific Elizabethan dramatist and a man of letters highly learned inthe 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, edudite 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 percieved as the general populace's ingorant prefence for the sensational.  While his direct influence can be sen 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.

The Ben Jonson journal

New Resource: The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson Online

The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson Online presents Jonson’s complete writings for readers of the twenty-first century, in the light of current editorial thinking and recent scholarly interpretation and discovery. It offers a clear sense, afforded by no other previous edition, of the shape, scale, and variety of the entire Jonsonian canon. At the same time, it is the first edition to use digital technology to give a dynamic insight into Jonson’s processes of composition and to reveal the editorial choices which underpin the modernized text.

Books on Jonson in the Stacks