Ben Johnson – English poet
Ben Johnson was an English poet, playwright, actor, drama theorist. He was one of Elizabethan England’s greatest writers.
Benjamin Johnson was born on June 11, 1572 in Westminster, London. It is known that Ben studied at Westminster School and received a good education. There are indications that after graduation he was a bricklayer. Later he joined the army, serving in Flanders. He returned to England about 1592 and married Anne Lewis on November 14, 1594.
Johnson was one of the most educated men of his time. He was elected Master of Arts in two universities, but there is no evidence that he was associated with the scientific life of the universities or studied in any of them.
In 1598 he wrote his first comedy Every Man in His Humor. In the same year Jonson killed a fellow actor, was arrested and tried for manslaughter. He escaped the death penalty, but the court had him branded on the thumb with a hot iron as a convicted criminal.
His comedies had a scandalous success, they were especially hated by aristocracy, portrayed stupid and worthless. For insulting the judges, officials and soldiers he was summoned to the chief judge; for insulting the Scottish aristocracy, the Scottish king was going to cut off his nose and ears and only thanks to the intercession of the clergy Ben Johnson escaped this fate. After the release of each new comedy Johnson had more and more enemies.
He knew classic literature perfectly, read the Greeks and Romans in the original.
Ben Johnson proved himself a great master in the decoration of “masks” – court balls, masquerades.
Johnson flourished as a dramatist during the first decade of the reign of James. By 1616, he wrote all the plays on which his reputation as a playwright depended. Including Catiline, Volpone, Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, The Alchemist, Bartholomew Fair and The devil is an Ass. The Alchemist and Volpone immediately became successful.
The Satyr and The Masque of Blackness were two of the two dozen plays, which he wrote for Jacob and Queen Anne.
He was recognized as an honorary citizen of Edinburgh and was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from Oxford University and lectured on rhetoric at Gresham College, London.
Ben Johnson died on August 6, 1637. He is buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey with the inscription “O Rare Ben Johnson” embossed on his tombstone.
There are many legends about the rivalry between Johnson and Shakespeare, some of which may be true.