Contemporary Playwright: Ben Jonson
By Katie Bennett
Life of Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson was born in London, England on June 11, 1572. He never knew his biological father as he died shortly before Jonson was born, and his mother remarried. He became a bricklayer for a short time in 1589 after his schooldays were over, and then joined the military in the Netherlands. Once his service was up, he attempted acting at Philip Henslowe’s theater company. He was arrested twice, once for not paying an actor and once for killing a man in a duel. During this period, he began writing plays. In 1954, he married Anne Lewis, and he had two children. He began actually working as a playwright around then. Several of his plays grew to be very popular. He wrote plays and poems over the course of his life, and died on August 6, 1637. He is buried in Westminster Abbey and his grave reads, "O Rare Ben Jonson."
Jonson's plays were greatly influenced by other classical works. He was said to have borrowed many bits and pieces of other great author's works and incorporated them into his own. He was popular for his comedic plays, such as The Alchemist and Volpone. He became so popular, that King James I employed him to write for him, allowing Jonson to get to know other established writers.
In The Merchant of Venice, Bassanio, best friend of the main character Antonio, is most likely a representation of Shakespeare's best friend, Ben Jonson. Shakespeare wrote his and Jonson's friendship into his play, presenting it through Antonio and Bassanio. Some character traits of Bassanio mirror Jonson. For example, Bassanio enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, yet he couldn't handle money for the life of him. This parallels Jonson because he never was able to achieve financial stability.
Synopsis of The Merchant of Venice
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Mabillard, Amanda. "Ben Jonson - His Life, Work, and Relationship with Shakespeare." Shakespeare Online. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/benjonson.html>.
"The Merchant of Venice." SparkNotes. SparkNotes. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/merchant/characters.html>.