Picture of author.

Ben Jonson (1572–1637)

Author of Volpone, or The Fox

281+ Works 5,047 Members 36 Reviews 13 Favorited

About the Author

Born in 1572, Ben Jonson rejected his father's bricklaying trade and ran away from his apprenticeship to join the army. He returned to England in 1592, working as an actor and playwright. In 1598, he was tried for murder after killing another actor in a duel, and was briefly imprisoned. One of his show more first plays, Every Man Out of His Humor (1599) had fellow playwright William Shakespeare as a cast member. His success grew with such works as Volpone (1605) and The Alchemist (1610) and he was popular at court, frequently writing the Christmas masque. He is considered a very fine Elizabethan poet. In some anti-Stratfordian circles he is proposed as the true author of Shakespeare's plays, though this view is not widely accepted. Jonson was appointed London historian in 1628, but that same year, his life took a downward turn. He suffered a paralyzing stroke and lost favor at court after an argument with architect Inigo Jones and the death of King James I. Ben Jonson died on August 6, 1637. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Includes the names: Ben Jonson, Ben Dzhonson, Ben Jonson et al.

Also includes: Ben Johnson (7)

Disambiguation Notice:

The dramatist and poet who was a contemporary of Shakespeare was named Ben Jonson. There is a also a modern author named Ben Johnson. If your book by Ben Jonson isn't showing up here, check your spelling of his name.

Image credit: wikipedia - Ben Jonson by Abraham Blyenberch, circa 1617.


Works by Ben Jonson

Volpone, or The Fox (1606) 905 copies
The Alchemist (1610) 622 copies
The Complete Poems (1963) 280 copies
Bartholomew Fair (1614) 234 copies
Five Plays (1960) 204 copies
Every Man in His Humour (1896) 151 copies
Sejanus : His Fall (1965) 94 copies
Eastward Ho! (1926) 68 copies
Poems of Ben Jonson (1954) 59 copies
Jonson: Complete Plays (1936) 55 copies
The Devil is an Ass (1994) 41 copies
The works of Ben Jonson (1999) 31 copies
The Staple of News (1975) 28 copies
Every Man Out of His Humour (2001) 26 copies
Poems (1907) 19 copies
The New Inn (1984) 16 copies
The Magnetic Lady (2000) 11 copies
Ben Jonson; selected works (1938) 10 copies
Works 10 copies
Cynthia's Revels (2009) 9 copies
A Tale of a Tub (2016) 6 copies
The Case Is Altered (1917) 5 copies
Sejanus His Fall — Author — 4 copies
The Alchemist (2016) 2 copies
Volpone 1607 2 copies
Come, My Celia 2 copies
Volpone (1978) 2 copies
Chloridia 2 copies
The Ben Jonson Collection (2016) 2 copies
Volpone, eller Reven (1993) 1 copy
Selected works, (1938) 1 copy
Poetry 1 copy
Volpone (1968) 1 copy
Volpone albo Lis (1982) 1 copy
P'esy. 1 copy
Volpone 1 copy
An Elegie 1 copy
The Originals Volpone (2019) 1 copy
Ben Johnson. Poems (1975) 1 copy
Komédiák (1974) 1 copy
The masque of queens (2006) 1 copy
Ben Jonson 1 copy
The Alchemist: A Play (2009) 1 copy
The Satyr 1 copy
The Penates 1 copy
The English grammar (1972) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (2000) — Contributor — 1,250 copies
The Metaphysical Poets (1957) — Contributor — 934 copies
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (1995) — Contributor, some editions — 914 copies
The Complete Works of Horace (1901) — Translator, some editions — 815 copies
English Poetry, Volume I: From Chaucer to Gray (1910) — Contributor — 522 copies
English Essays: From Sir Philip Sidney to Macaulay (1909) — Contributor — 479 copies
The First Folio of Shakespeare (1623) — commendatory verses — 456 copies
The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology (1992) — Contributor — 388 copies
The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse: 1509-1659 (1992) — Contributor — 284 copies
English Renaissance Drama (2002) — Contributor — 223 copies
Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry (1929) — Author, some editions — 210 copies
Masterpieces of the Drama (1966) — Contributor — 179 copies
Eight Famous Elizabethan Plays (1777) — Contributor, some editions — 171 copies
The genius of the early English theater (1962) — Contributor — 166 copies
The Standard Book of British and American Verse (1932) — Contributor — 113 copies
The Norton Book of Friendship (1991) — Contributor — 94 copies
Four Great Elizabethan Plays (1960) — Contributor — 73 copies
The Everyman Anthology of Poetry for Children (1994) — Contributor — 72 copies
Five Plays of the English Renaissance (1983) — Contributor — 68 copies
Four Jacobean City Plays (Penguin Classics) (1797) — Contributor — 63 copies
Four Famous Tudor and Stuart Plays (1963) — Contributor — 53 copies
Elizabethan Drama: Eight Plays (1702) — Contributor — 48 copies
The chief Elizabethan dramatists, excluding Shakespeare (1911) — Contributor — 48 copies
The Fairies' Ring (1999) — Contributor — 48 copies
Treasury of the Theatre: From Aeschylus to Ostrovsky (1967) — Contributor — 48 copies
Poems of Faith (2002) — Contributor — 42 copies
A Golden Land (1958) — Contributor — 41 copies
Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500-2001 (2014) — Contributor — 41 copies
Modern Arthurian Literature (1992) — Contributor — 31 copies
Nine Great Plays: From Aeschylus to Eliot (Revised Edition) (1950) — Contributor; Contributor — 24 copies
Classics of the Renaissance Theater: Seven English Plays (1969) — Contributor — 23 copies
Masters of British Literature, Volume A (2007) — Contributor — 20 copies
AQA Anthology (2002) — Author, some editions — 19 copies
Loss: An Anthology (1997) — Contributor — 18 copies
Volpone (1979) — Author; Contributor — 17 copies
The Renaissance in England (1966) — Contributor — 16 copies
Classic Hymns & Carols (2012) — Contributor — 15 copies
Poems of Magic and Spells (1960) — Contributor — 14 copies
Fairy Poems (2023) — Contributor — 13 copies
A Book of masques : in honour of Allardyce Nicoll (1967) — Contributor — 11 copies
The best Elizabethan plays (1890) — some editions — 11 copies
Englische Essays aus drei Jahrhunderten (1980) — Contributor — 10 copies
Elizabethan Drama (1950) — Contributor — 10 copies
Men and Women: The Poetry of Love (1970) — Contributor — 8 copies
Jacobean Civic Pageants (Renaissance Texts & Studies) (1996) — Contributor — 8 copies
Routledge Anthology Early Modern Drama (2020) — Contributor — 7 copies
Early English Plays, 900-1600 (1928) — Contributor — 6 copies
Elizabethan songs (1970) — Lyricist — 6 copies
English poetic satire: Wyatt to Byron (1972) — Contributor — 6 copies
An introduction to drama (1951) — Contributor — 5 copies
Jacobean and Caroline masques (1981) — Contributor — 4 copies
The Ancient British drama, in three volumes — Contributor — 2 copies
A Reader for Writers — Contributor — 2 copies
The Harmony of the Muses (1654) (1990) — Contributor — 1 copy


Common Knowledge

Legal name
Jonson, Benjamin
Date of death
Burial location
Westminster Abbey, London, England, UK
Country (for map)
St Margaret's parish, Westminster, Middlesex, Kingdom of England
Place of death
London, England, UK
Places of residence
London, England, UK
Westminster School, London
Shakespeare, William (friend)
Camden, William (student and friend)
The Admiral's Men
Awards and honors
Honorary Doctorate (Cambridge University)
Honorary Doctorate (Oxford University)
Poet Laureate of England
Short biography
"O Rare Ben Jonson."
Disambiguation notice
The dramatist and poet who was a contemporary of Shakespeare was named Ben Jonson. There is a also a modern author named Ben Johnson. If your book by Ben Jonson isn't showing up here, check your spelling of his name.



Never actually finished this, I found it horrible to read.
justgeekingby | 1 other review | Jun 6, 2023 |
In 1611 two experienced London playwrights collaborated on a new play dramatizing a real-life contemporary wonder, Mary Frith, known as Moll Cutpurse, "a sometime thief and notorious cross-dresser" (ix). In Feb 2023 at the Blackfriars theater in Staunton VA a group of enthusiastic amateur players offered a staged reading of the rarely performed play, prompting me to revisit it. It's at once clear why it has become popular in recent years, after almost 4 centuries of neglect.

The real-life Frith was charged with theft and a host of notoriously male behaviors - drunkenness, swearing, dueling, swaggering, and cross-dressing. Middleton and Dekker's Moll affects some of those behaviors but is presented sympathetically as an outspoken free-thinker transcending the rigid constraints of her class and gender. Such froward behavior attracts some undesired admirers to this "maddest, fantastical'st girl" (2.1.192) for her "heroic spirit and masculine womanhood" (2.1.336-7), but much of the play rehearses the knee-jerk attacks on one who "strays so from her kind [that] Nature repents she made her" (1.2.214-5). Her non-binary gender presentation is at the heart of her offense: "It is a thing One knows not how to name; . . . 'Tis woman more than man, Man more than woman, and . . . The sun gives her two shadows to one shape" (1.2.129-33). The fact that such attacks come from the play's senex, Sir Alexander Wengrave, who blocks a heterosexual pair of true lovers from wedded bliss, makes clear where the plot's sympathies rest.

The play offers Moll several memorable bits of stage business. Twice in act 3 when in male garb she draws her weapon to engage with and defeat male opponents. Then act 4 finds her placing a viol da gamba between her trousered legs to perform two songs about transgressive wives, and in act 5 she engages in a bout of "canting," a slang duel that ends with yet another song.

Her verbal climax comes earlier, in an articulate attack on a would-be seducer, the poorly endowed Laxton (lacks stone): "Thou'rt one of those That thinks each woman thy fond flexible whore. . . . What durst move you, sir, To think me whorish? . . . "Cause, you'll say, I'm given to sport, I'm often merry, jest? Had mirth no kindred in the world but lust? . . . I scorn to prostitute myself to a man, I that can prostitute a man to me. . . she that has wit and spirit May scorn to live beholding to her body for meat Or for apparel . . . Base is the mind that kneels unto her body . . . My spirit shall be mistress of this house As long as I have time in't" (3.1.72-140).

Though Moll is the play's featured character, her part in the love-plot is relatively small. It is mostly limited to unmasking plotters and dodging entrapment while allying with the young lover Sebastian Wengrave to cozen his father and marry his true love Mary (about whom the roaring girl says "I pitied her for name's sake, that a Moll Should be so crossed in love" (4.1.68-9). Much of the play is taken up with the misadventures of two city gallants, whose attempts to "wap, niggle and fadoodle" (5.1.189-95) with two housewives and bamboozle their husbands are thwarted by the wives themselves (as in Shakespeare's Merry Wives).

In the end, though this city comedy flirts with transgression at every turn, it ends up affirming heterosexual marriage and wifely wiles. Sir Alexander the senex apologizes for his errors and praises Moll as "a good wench" and the foxy housewives as "kind gentlewomen, whose sparkling presence Are glories set in marriage" (5.2.268-9). Perhaps the chief roarer speaks for her sisters as well as herself when she proclaims, "I please myself, and care not else who loves me" (5.1.332).
… (more)
gwalton | Apr 2, 2023 |
There's just really not much to say about The Alchemist.

It has the one-dimensional characters of a morality play. The language is uninteresting; the wordplay is not clever enough to have an enduring quality. The plot is barely worth mentioning: an academic, a bawd, and a butler perpetrate a series of frauds based around the claim they can produce The Philosopher's Stone.

Clearly a base crowd-pleaser that hasn't aged well. Jonson can do so much better.
mkfs | 8 other reviews | Aug 13, 2022 |
Turns out Ben Jonson is a riot! I need to read/watch more of his plays. So many weird names and shenanigans, and he's certainly not afraid to break the fourth wall in order to call out his critics or talk up his own accomplishments, haha.

If you like Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor, Taming of the Shrew, or the country and tavern parts of Henry IV Part 2, you'll probably like this!
misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |



You May Also Like

Associated Authors

W. Gifford Contributor
W. W. Greg Editor
Robert N. Watson Introduction
Jonas A. Barish Contributor, Editor
Ian Donaldson Contributor, Editor
Stephen Orgel Contributor
John Dryden Contributor
Harry Levin Contributor, Editor
Richard Harp Contributor
Robert Watson Contributor
Anne Barton Contributor
D. J. Gordon Contributor
John Mulryan Contributor
Robert C. Evans Contributor
Leah S. Marcus Contributor
Robert M. Adams Contributor
Sidney Godolphin Contributor
Thomas Carew Contributor
Jasper Mayne Contributor
William Blissett Contributor
T. S. Eliot Contributor
Edmund Waller Contributor
Thom Gunn Editor
Nicholas Lanier Contributor
D Heyward Brock Introduction
Felix E. Schelling Editor, Introduction
Martin Hartkamp Translator
Franco Cuomo Translator
Felix Schelling Introduction


Also by

Charts & Graphs