Ben Johnson

Shakespeare's most distinguished contemporary playwright. There are some certain and some possible allusions to Shakespeare in a number of his plays. His Conversations with William Drummond, of 1618-19, include informal comments, such as "That Shakespeare wanted art." The First Folio includes his lines 'To the Reader', placed opposite the portrait of Shakespeare, and his famous verse elegy 'To the Memory of my Beloved, the Author Master William Shakespeare, and what he hath left us', in which he refers to Shakespeare's 'small Latin and less Greek', but declares 'He was not of an age, but for all time!' In his 'Ode to Himself', written c. 1629, he alludes to the 'moldy tale' of Pericles, and in notebooks, published as Timber: or Discoveries made upon Men and Matter, wrote 'the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out line. My answer hath been, would he had blotted a thousand... I loved the man, and do honor his memory (on this side idolatry) as much as any. he was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, where in he flowed with that facility, that sometime it was necessary he should be stopped...But he redeemed his vices with his virtues. There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.'

Shakespeare is known to have acted in Jonson's plays Every Man in his Humor (1598) and Sejanus (1603). Many were the wit-combats betwixt him and Ben Jonson; which two I behold like a Spanish great galleon and an English man of war: Master Jonson (like the former) was built far higher in learning; solid, but slow in his performances. Shakespeare, with the English man of war, lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about, and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention.

In Every Man in His Humor (1598) he introduced the "comedy of humors," each character being driven by a particular obsession. Other major satirical plays include Volpone (1606), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614). In collaboration with Inigo Jones he produced many court masques. He also published two collections of poems and translations. Ranked above Shakespeare in the 17th century, Jonson based his finest work on classical principles and influenced a number of younger poets known as "the Tribe of Ben." he is buried in Westminster Abbey.

English politician and poet. A London barrister, he entered Parliament in 1558. He was a member of the Privy Council (1585) and conveyed the death sentence to Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1586. He later served on diplomatic missions to The Hague and served as lord high treasurer 1599-1608. He was also noted as the coauthor of The Tragedie of Gorboduc (1561), the earliest English drama in blank verse, and for his "Induction," the most famous part of the verse collection A Myrrour for Magistrates (1563).