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in two volumes

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The greatest of English dramatists except
Shakespeare, the first literary dictator and
poet-laureate, a writer of verse, prose, satire
and criticism, who most potently of all the
men of his time affected the subsequent course
of English letters : such was Ben Jonson, and
as such his strong personality assumes an
interest almost unparalleled, at least in his age.

This edition of Ben Jonson's Plays is complete
in two volumes. Contents:

Vol. i : Every Man in His Humour, first
version ( 1 598) ; Every Man out of His Humour
(1599) ; Cynthia's Revels (1600) ; The Poetaster
(1601) ; Sejanus (1603) ; Volpone (1605) ; Epi-
coene (1609); Every Man in His Humour,
second version (1601).

Vol. 2: The Alchemist (1610); Catiline his
Conspiracy (161 1) ; Bartholomew Fair (1614) ;
The Devil is an Ass (1631) ; The Staple of News
(1625); The New Inn (1629); The Magnetic
Lady (1632); A Tale of a Tub (1633); The
Sad Shepherd (? 1637); The Case is Altered


There is a glossary at the end of each volume.

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Believed to have been born in Westminster in
1573. Fought against the Spaniards in Flanders
returning in 1592, and took to the stage. Trial
for murder, 1598; became a Roman Catholic
for twelve years. Journey to France, 1613; to
Scotland, 1618. Died in 1637

Ben Tonson's Plavs

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THE greatest of English dramatists except Shakespeare, the
first literary dictator and poet-laureate, a writer of verse,
prose, satire, and criticism who most potently of all the men
of his time affected the subsequent course of English letters:
such w r as Ben Jonson, and as such his strong personality as-
sumes an interest to us almost unparalleled, at least in his age.
Ben Jonson came of the stock that was centuries after to
give to the world Thomas Carlyle; for Jonson's grandfather
was of Annandale, over the Solway, whence he migrated to
England. Jonson's father lost his estate under Queen Mary,
" having been cast into prison and forfeited." He entered
the church, but died a month before his illustrious son was
born, leaving his widow and child in poverty. Jonson's
birthplace w r as Westminster, and the time of his birth early
in 1573. He was thus nearly ten years Shakespeare's junior,
and less well off, if a trifle better born. But Jonson did not
profit even by this slight advantage. His mother married
beneath her, a wright or bricklayer, and Jonson was for a
time apprenticed to the trade. As a youth he attracted the
attention of the famous antiquary, William Camden, then
usher at Westminster School, and there the poet laid the solid
foundations of his classical learning. Jonson always held
Camden in veneration, acknowledging that to him he owed,

All that I am in arts, all that I know;

and dedicating his first dramatic success, " Every Man in His
Humour," to him. It is doubtful whether Jonson ever went
to either university, though Fuller says that he was " statut-
ably admitted into St. John's College, Cambridge." He tells
us that he took no degree, but was later " Master ol
Arts in both the universities, by their favour, not his study."
When a mere youth Jonson enlisted as a soldier, trailing his
pike in Flanders in the protracted wars of William the Silent
against the Spanish. Jonson was a large and raw-boned lad ;
he became by his own account in time exceedingly bulky.
In chat with his friend William Drummond of Hawthornden,


viii Ben Jonson's Plays

Jonson told how " in his service in the Low Countries he had,
in the face of both the camps, killed an enemy, and taken
opima spolia from him;' and how "since his coming to
England, being appealed to the fields, he had killed his
adversary which had hurt him in the arm and whose sword
was ten inches longer than his." Jonson's reach may have
made up for the lack of his sword ; certainly his prowess lost
nothing in the telling. Obviously Jonson was brave, combative,
and not averse to talking of himself and his doings.

In 1592, Jonson returned from abroad penniless. Soon
after he married, almost as early and quite as imprudently as
Shakespeare. He told Drummond curtly that " his wife was
a shrew, yet honest "; for some years he lived apart from her
in the household of Lord Albany. Yet two touching epitaphs
among Jonson's Epigrams, " On my first daughter," and " On
my first son," attest the warmth of the poet's family affections.
The daughter died in infancy, the son of the plague; another
son grew up to manhood little credit to his father whom he
survived. We know nothing beyond this of Jonson's domestic

How soon Jonson drifted into what we now call grandly
"the theatrical profession' 1 we do not know. In 1593,
Marlowe made his tragic exit from life, and Greene, Shake-
speare's other rival on the popular stage, had preceded
Marlowe in an equally miserable death the year before.
Shakespeare already had the running to himself. Jonson
appears first in the employment of Philip Henslowe, the
exploiter of several troupes of players, manager, and father-
in-law of the famous actor, Edward Alleyn. From entries in
Henslowe's Diary, a species of theatrical account book which
has been handed down to us, we know that Jonson was
connected with the Admiral's men; for he borrowed 4 of
Henslowe, July 28, 1597, paying back 35. 9d. on the same day
on account of his " share " (in what is not altogether clear);
while later, on December 3, of the same year, Henslowe
advanced 2os. to him " upon a book which he showed the plot
unto the company which he promised to deliver unto the
company at Christmas next." In the next August Jonson
was in collaboration with Chettle and Porter in a play called
" Hot Anger Soon Cold." All this points to an association
with Henslowe of some duration, as no mere tyro would be
thus paid in advance upon mere promise. From allusions in
Dekker's play, " Satiromastix," it appears that Jonson, like

Introduction ix

Shakespeare, began life as an actor, and that he " ambled in
a leather pitch by a play- wagon " taking at one time the part
of Hieronimo in Kyd's famous play, "The Spanish Tragedy."
By the beginning of 1598, Jonson, though still in needy cir-
cumstances, had begun to receive recognition. Francis Meres
well known for his " Comparative Discourse of our English
Poets with the Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets," printed
in 1598, and for his mention therein of a dozen plays of Shake-
speare by title accords to Ben Jonson a place as one of
" our best in tragedy," a matter of some surprise, as no known
tragedy of Jonson from so early a date has come down to us.
That Jonson was at work on tragedy, however, is proved by
the entries in Henslowe of at least three tragedies, now lost,
in which he had a hand. These are " Page of Plymouth,"
" King Robert II. of Scotland," and "Richard Crookback."
But all of these came later, on his return to Henslowe, and
range from August 1599 to June 1602.

Returning to the autumn of 1598, an event now happened
to sever for a time Jonson's relations with Henslowe. In a
letter to Alleyn, dated September 26 of that year, Henslowe
writes: " I have lost one of my company that hurteth me
greatly; that is Gabriel [Spencer], for he is slain in Hogsden
fields by the hands of Benjamin Jonson, bricklayer." The
last word is perhaps Henslowe's thrust at Jonson in his dis-
pleasure rather than a designation of his actual continuance
at his trade up to this time. It is fair to Jonson to remark,
however, that his adversary appears to have been a notorious
fire-eater who had shortly before killed one Feeke in a similar
squabble. Duelling was a frequent occurrence of the time
among gentlemen and the nobility; it was an impudent
breach of the peace on the part of a player. This duel is the
one which Jonson described years after to Drummond, and
for it Jonson was duly arraigned at Old Bailey, tried, and
convicted. He was sent to prison and such goods and chattels
as he had " were forfeited." It is a thought to give one pause
that, but for the ancient law permitting convicted felons to
plead, as it was called, the benefit of clergy, Jonson might
have been hanged for this deed. The circumstance that the
poet could read and write saved him ; and he received only a
brand of the letter " T," for Tyburn, on his left thumb. While
in jail Jonson became a Roman Catholic; but he returned to
the faith of the Church of England a dozen years later.

On his release, in disgrace with Henslowe and his former

x Ben Jonson's Plays

associates, Jonson offered his services as a playwright to
Henslowe's rivals, the Lord Chamberlain's company, in which
Shakespeare was a prominent shareholder. A tradition of
long standing, though not susceptible of proof in a court of
law, narrates that Jonson had submitted the manuscript of
" Every Man in His Humour " to the Chamberlain's men and
had received from the company a refusal; that Shakespeare
called him back, read the play himself, and at once accepted
it. Whether this story is true or not, certain it is that
" Every Man in His Humour " was accepted by Shakespeare's
company and acted for the first time in 1598, with Shakespeare
taking a part. The evidence of this is contained in the list
of actors prefixed to the comedy in the folio of Jonson's works,
1616. But it is a mistake to infer, because Shakespeare's
name stands first in the list of actors and the elder Kno'well
first in the dramatis persons, that Shakespeare took that
particular part. The order of a list of Elizabethan players
was generally that of their importance or priority as share-
holders in the company and seldom if ever corresponded to
the list of characters.

" Every Man in His Humour" was an immediate success,
and with it Jonson's reputation as one of the leading dramatists
of his time was established once and for all. This could have
been by no means Jonson's earliest comedy, and we have
just learned that he was already reputed one of " our best in
tragedy." Indeed, one of Jonson's extant comedies, " The
Case is Altered," but one never claimed by him or published
as his, must certainly have preceded " Every Man in His
Humour " on the stage. The former play may be described
as a comedy modelled on the Latin plays of Plautus. (It com-
bines, in fact, situations derived from the " Captivi" and the
" Aulularia " of that dramatist). But the pretty story of the
beggar-maiden, Rachel, and her suitors, Jonson found, not
among the classics, but in the ideals of romantic love which
Shakespeare had already popularised on the stage. Jonson
never again produced so fresh and lovable a feminine personage
as Rachel, although in other respects " The Case is Altered "
is not a conspicuous play, and, save for the satirising of Antony
Munday in the person of Antonio Balladino and Gabriel
Harvey as well, is perhaps the least characteristic of the
comedies of Jonson.

" Every Man in His Humour," probably first acted late in
the summer of 1598 and at the Curtain, is commonly regarded

Introduction xi

as an epoch-making play; and this view is not unjustified.
As to plot, it tells little more than how an intercepted letter
enabled a father to follow his supposedly studious son to
London, and there observe his life with the gallants of the
time. The real quality of this comedy is in its personages
and in the theory upon which they are conceived. Ben
Jonson had theories about poetry and the drama, and he was
neither chary in talking of them nor in experimenting with
them in his plays. This makes Jonson, like Dryden in his
time, and Wordsworth much later, an author to reckon with;
particularly when we remember that many of Jonson's notions
came for a time definitely to prevail and to modify the whole
trend of English poetry. First of all Jonson was a classicist,
that is, he believed in restraint and precedent in art in opposi-
tion to the prevalent ungoverned and irresponsible Renaissance
spirit. Jonson believed that there was a professional way of
doing things which might be reached by a study of the best
examples, and he found these examples for the most part
among the ancients. To confine our attention to the drama,
Jonson objected to the amateurishness and haphazard nature
of many contemporary plays, and set himself to do something
different; and the first and most striking thing that he evolved
was his conception and practice of the comedy of humours.

As Jonson has been much misrepresented in this matter,
let us quote his own words as to " humour." A humour,
according to Jonson, was a bias of disposition, a warp, so to
speak, in character by which

Some one peculiar quality
Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw
All his affects, his spirits, and his powers,
In their confluctions, all to run one way.

Cut continuing, Jonson is careful to add:

But that a rook by wearing a pied feather,
The cable hat-band, or the three-piled ru.i,
A yard of shoe-tie, or the Switzers kn >t
On his French garters, should affect a humour!
O, it is more than most ridiculous.

Jonson's comedy of humours, in a word, conceived of si.
personages on the basis of a ruling trait or pas-ion (a>:
simplification of actual life be it observed in posing); and.
placing these typified traits in juxtaposition in their conflict
and contrast, struck the spark of comedy. Downright, as
his name indicates, is " a plain squire " ; Bubadill's hum' iu

xii Ben Jonson's Plays

that of the braggart who is incidentally, and with delightfully
comic effect, a coward; Brain worm's humour is the finding
out of things to the end of fooling everybody: of course he is
fooled in the end himself. But it was not Jonson's theories
alone that made the success of " Every Man in His Humour."
The play is admirably written and each character is vividly
conceived, and with a firm touch based on observation of the
men of the London of the day. Jonson was neither in this,
his first great comedy (nor in any other play that he wrote),
a supine classicist, urging that English drama return to a
slavish adherence to classical conditions. He says as to the
laws of the old comedy (meaning by " laws," such matters as
the unities of time and place and the use of chorus): " I see
not then, but we should enjoy the same licence, or free power
to illustrate and heighten our invention as they [the ancients]
did; and not be tied to those strict and regular forms which
the niceness of a few, who are nothing but form, would thrust
upon us." " Every Man in His Humour " is written in prose,
a novel practice which Jonson had of his predecessor in comedy,
John Lyly. Even the word " humour " seems to have been
employed in the Jonsonian sense by Chapman before Jonson's
use of it. Indeed, the comedy of humours itself is only a
heightened variety of the comedy of manners which represents
life, viewed at a satirical angle, and is the oldest and most
persistent species of comedy in the language. None the less,
Jonson's comedy merited its immediate success and marked
out a definite course in which comedy long continued to run.
To mention only Shakespeare's Falstaff and his rout, Bardolph,
Pistol, Dame Quickly, and the rest, whether in " Henry IV."
or in " The Merry Wives of Windsor," all are conceived in the
spirit of humours. So are the captains, Welsh, Scotch, and
Irish of "Henry V.," and Malvolio especially later; though
Shakespeare never employed the method of humours for an
important personage. It was not Jonson's fault that many
of his successors did precisely the thing that he had reprobated,
that is, degrade " the humour " into an oddity of speech, an
eccentricity of manner, of dress, or cut of beard. There was
an anonymous play called " Every Woman in Her Humour."
Chapman wrote " A Humourous Day's Mirth," Day, " Humour
Out of Breath," Fletcher later, " The Humourous Lieutenant,"
and Jonson, besides " Every Man Out of His Humour,"
returned to the title in closing the cycle of his comedies in
" The Magnetic Lady or Humours Reconciled."

Introduction xiii

With the performance of " Every Man Out of His Humour "
in 1599, by Shakespeare's company once more at the Globe,
we turn a new page in Jonson's career. Despite his many real
virtues, if there is one feature more than any other that
distinguishes Jonson, it is his arrogance; and to this may
be added his self-righteousness, especially under criticism or
satire. " Every Alan Out of His Humour " is the first of three
" comical satires " which Jonson contributed to what Dekker
called the poetomachia or war of the theatres as recent critics
have named it. This play as a fabric of plot is a very slight
affair; but as a satirical picture of the manners of the time,
proceeding by means of vivid caricature, couched in witty
and brilliant dialogue and sustained by that righteous indigna-
tion which must lie at the heart of all true satire as a realisa-
tion, in short, of the classical ideal of comedy there had been
nothing like Jonson's comedy since the days of Aristophanes.
" Every Man in His Humour," like the two plays that follow
it, contains two kinds of attack, the critical or generally satiric,
levelled at abuses and corruptions in the abstract; and the
personal, in which specific application is made of all this in
the lampooning of poets and others, Jonson's contemporaries.
The method of personal attack by actual caricature of a person
on the stage is almost as old as the drama. Aristophanes so
lampooned Euripides in "The Acharnians " and Socrates in
" The Clouds," to mention no other examples; and in English
drama this kind of thing is alluded to again and again. What
Jonson really did, was to raise the dramatic lampoon to an
art, and make out of a casual burlesque and bit of mimicrv a
dramatic satire of literary pretensions and permanency. With
the arrogant attitude mentioned above and his uncommon
eloquence in scorn, vituperation, and invective, it is no wonder
that Jonson soon involved himself in literary and even personal
quarrels with his fellow-authors. The circumstances of tin*
origin of this poetomachia are far from clear, and those who
have written on the topic, except of late, have not helped to
make them clearer. The origin of the ' war ' l><-.-n
referred to satirical references, apparently to Jonson, contain' 1
in "The Scourge of Villainy," a satire in regular form alter
the manner of the ancients by John Marston, a fellow j>>
\\-right, subsequent friend and collaborator of Jonson's. On
the other hand, epigrams of Jonson have been discovered
(49, 68, and 100) variously charging 'playwright' (reason-
ably identified with Marston) with scurrility, cowardice, an-1

xiv Ben Jonson's Plays

plagiarism; though the dates of the epigrams cannot be
ascertained with certainty. Jonson's own statement of the
matter to Drummond runs: " He had many quarrels with
Marston, beat him, and took his pistol from him, wrote his
Poetaster on him ; the beginning[s] of them were that Marston
represented him on the stage." l

Here at least we are on certain ground ; and the principals
of the quarrel are known. " Histriomastix," a play revised
by Marston in 1598, has been regarded as the one in which
Jonson was thus "represented on the stage"; although the
personage in question, Chrisogonus, a poet, satirist, and trans-
lator, poor but proud, and contemptuous of the common herd,
seems rather a complimentary portrait of Jonson than a
caricature. As to the personages actually ridiculed in " Every
Man Out of His Humour," Carlo Buff one was formerly thought
certainly to be Marston, as he was described as " a public,
scurrilous, and profane jester," and elsewhere as the grand
scourge or second untruss [that is, satirist], of the time '
(Joseph Hall being by his own boast the first, and Marston's
work being entitled " The Scourge of Villainy "). Apparently
we must now prefer for Carlo a notorious character named
Charles Chester, of whom gossipy and inaccurate Aubrey
relates that he was " a bold impertinent fellow ... a
perpetual talker and made a noise like a drum in a room.
So one time at a tavern Sir Walter Raleigh beats him and
seals up his mouth (that is his upper and his nether beard)
with hard wax. From him Ben Jonson takes his Carlo
Buffone [i.e., jester] in 'Every Man in His Humour' [sic]."
Is it conceivable that after all Jonson was ridiculing Marston,
and that the point of the satire consisted in an intentional
confusion of " the grand scourge or second untruss ' with
" the scurrilous and profane " Chester?

We have digressed into detail in this particular case to
exemplify the difficulties of criticism in its attempts to identify
the allusions in these forgotten quarrels. We are on sounder
ground of fact in recording other manifestations of Jonson's
enmity. In " The Case is Altered " there is clear ridicule in
the character Antonio Balladino of Anthony Munday, pageant-
poet of the city, translator of romances and playwright as well.

1 The best account of this whole subject is to be found in the edition of
Poetaster and Satiromastrix by J. H. Penniman in Belles Lettres Series
shortly to appear. See also his earlier work, The War of the Theatres,
1892, and the excellent contributions to the subject by H. C. Hart in
Notes and Queries, and in his edition of Jonson, 1906.

Introuuction xv

In " Every Man in His Humour " there is certainly a caricature
of Samuel Daniel, accepted poet of the court, sonneteer, and
companion of men of fashion. These men held recognised
positions to which Jonson felt his talents better entitled him ;
they were hence to him his natural enemies. It seems almost
certain that he pursued both in the personages of his satire
through " Every Man Out of His Humour," and " Cynthia's
Revels," Daniel under the characters Fastidious Brisk and
Hedon, Munday as Puntarvolo and Amorphus; but in these
last we venture on quagmire once more. Jonson's literary
rivalry of Daniel is traceable again and again, in the enter-
tainments that welcomed King James on his way to London,
in the masques at court, and in the pastoral drama. As to
Jonson's personal ambitions with respect to these two men, it
is notable that he became, not pageant-poet, but chronologer
to the City of London ; and that, on the accession of the new
king, he came soon to triumph over Daniel as the accepted
entertainer of royalty.

" Cynthia's Revels," the second " comical satire," was acted
in 1600, and, as a play, is even more lengthy, elaborate, and
impossible than " Every Man Out of His Humour." Here
personal satire seems to have absorbed everything, and while
much of the caricature is admirable, especially in the detail of
witty and trenchantly satirical dialogue, the central idea of a
fountain of self-love is not very well carried out, and the
persons revert at times to abstractions, the action to allegory.
It adds to our wonder that this difficult drama should have
been acted by the Children of Queen Elizabeth's Chapel, among
them Nathaniel Field with whom Jonson read Horace and
Martial, and whom he taught later how to make plays.
Another of these precocious little actors was Salathiel Pavy,
who died before he was thirteen, already famed for taking the
parts of old men. Him Jonson immortalised in one of the
sweetest of his epitaphs. An interesting sidelight is this on
the character of this redoubtable and rugged satirist, that he

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