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Ben Jonson

A Life

Ian Donaldson

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Oxford University Press
01 April 2013
Ben Jonson was the greatest of Shakespeare's contemporaries. In the century following his death he was seen by many as the finest of all English writers, living or dead. His fame rested not only on the numerous plays he had written for the theatre, but on his achievements over three decades as principal masque-writer to the early Stuart court, where he had worked in creative, and often stormy, collaboration with Inigo Jones. One of the most accomplished poets of the age, he had become - in fact if not in title - the first Poet Laureate in England. Jonson's life was full of drama. Serving in the Low Countries as a young man, he overcame a Spanish adversary in single combat in full view of both the armies. His early satirical play, The Isle of Dogs, landed him in prison, and brought all theatrical activity in London to a temporary standstill. He was 'almost at the gallows' for killing a fellow actor after a quarrel, and converted to Catholicism while awaiting execution. After satirizing the Scots in Eastward Ho! he was imprisoned again; and throughout his career was repeatedly interrogated about plays and poems thought to contain seditious or slanderous material. Ian Donaldson's new biography draws on freshly discovered writings by and about Ben Jonson, and locates his work within the social and intellectual contexts of his time. Jonson emerges from this study as a more complex and volatile character than his own self-declarations would allow, and as a writer whose work strikingly foresees the modern age.
By:   Ian Donaldson
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 233mm,  Width: 155mm,  Spine: 31mm
Weight:   856g
ISBN:   9780199697472
ISBN 10:   0199697477
Pages:   560
Publication Date:   01 April 2013
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS ; NOTE ON TEXTS AND DATING ; 1. Prologue: The Biographer's Bones ; 2. Scotland 1618-1619 ; 3. Debatable Land 1542-1572 ; 4. Influences 1572-1588 ; 5. Conflicts 1588-1592 ; 6. Entering the Theatre 1594-1597 ; 7. Saved by the Book 1597-1598 ; 8. Global Satire 1598-1601 ; 9. The Wolf's Black Jaw 1601-1603 ; 10. Scots, Plots, and Panegyrics 1603-1605 ; 11. Following the Plot 1606-7 ; 12. Communities 1607-1612 ; 13. City, Theatre, Court 1610-1612 ; 14. Travels 1611-1613 ; 15. Fame 1613-1616 ; 16. Money 1614-1617 ; 17. Scholarship 1619-1630 ; 18. Lateness 1619-1637 ; 19. Remembrance with Posterity ; ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

<br>Ian Donaldson is Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He has written many books on Jonson and is a General Editor, with David Bevington and Martin Butler, of the forthcoming seven-volume Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson. An eminent scholar, Donaldson is a Fellow of the British Academy and past president of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.<br>

Reviews for Ben Jonson: A Life

`Donaldson proves singularly capable of describing how key relationships in Jonson's life altered his tonal and thematic development as a writer.' Essays in Criticism `the definitive life of Jonson, and one of the best literary biographies written in any era.' R.S. White, Parergon `Donaldson's masterly examination of Jonson's life and works ... an exemplary biography that is highly recommended reading.' Geoff Hiller, Melbourne Club `this is a major book to own and read and re-read to understand the lateral riches and remarkable variety of the greatest period of English drama.' Professor Stephen Knight `marvelous ... a towering achievement' Kevin Hart, Los Angeles Review of Books `a ground breaking piece of scholarship ... this study will be a wlcome addition to the book shelves of students throughout the English speaking world.' Ian Lipke, Media-Culture Reviews `[an] excellant new biography ... both scholarly and readable' Lev Myshkin, The Global Dispatches `This new study is essential for academic collections and for readers wishing to seriously extend beyond Shakespeare their knowledge of this literary era.' T.L. Cooksey, Library Journal `Donaldson's long-awaited biography will be an important resource for Jonson scholars' Jennifer Brady, Renaissance Quarterly `an indispensable account of Jonson's life and milieu.' Paul Hammond, The Seventeenth Century `[a] superb new biography ... rich and readable' Neil Rhodes `Donaldson's indefatigable attention to the social, political, and intellectual dimensions of Jonson's world has resulted in an extremely readable and carefully sifted account of his life and career that is unlikely to be surpassed.' William E. Engel `Review from previous edition At last we have a biography worthy of the richness and complexity of Jonson's life, with all its concealments and ambivalences. This book illuminates the man, the huge range of his writings, and the extraordinary events through which he lived and about which he provided such carefully coded commentaries.' JOHN MORRILL FBA, Professor of British and Irish History, University of Cambridge `A rare and valuable achievement. Elegant in style, flexible in approach, and characterised by a tone of intelligent curiosity, it is engaging as well as definitive.' Lisa Gorton, Australian Book Review `Deeply researched but happily readable.' New York Review of Books `absorbing biography' New Statesman `fascinating portrait...brilliant biography' Daily Telegraph `authoritative and lucid biography' Sunday Telegraph `definitive biography of this quarrelsome playwright.' Sunday Times `The biographical material on Jonson is extraordinarily rich...Donaldson's fine book is stocked with new material' The Guardian `exemplary new in detail and insights' The Guardian `a work of clarity and lucidity, exact in its historical detail, full of new material and ingeniously suggestive in its conjecture and interpretation.' Sam Leith, Spectator `Donaldson is ideally placed to write the definitive life, and he has done so.' John Carey, Sunday Times `Ian Donaldson has written a splendid life of this extraordinary man, which all claimants to the tribe of Ben will savor and prize.' The Weekly Standard `A learned biography, it cuts a revealing section through the Jacobean Age.' Michael Alexander, The Tablet `His deep involvement with Jonson scholarship and criticism ... is apparent on every page of his authoritative, elegantly written, and illuminatingly illustrated biography.' Stanley Wells, New York Review of Books ` of the best literary biographies written in any era.' R.S White, Parergon.

  • Shortlisted for James Tait Black Memorial Book Prize: Biography 2012.
  • Shortlisted for James Tait Black Memorial Book Prizes: Biography 2012.
  • Winner of SHORTLISTED FOR THE JAMES TAIT BLACK BIOGRAPHY AWARD 2012 Shortlisted for the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction 2013.

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