Ben Jonson (1572-1637)
An English playwright, Jonson has always been recognised as the second greatest dramatist, with Shakespeare being the first. In 1597 he joined the company of Philip Henslowe, writing plays for him and performing in some of them. However, involved in a duel, he killed Gabriel Spencer, an actor from Henslowe’s troupe. After the incident, Jonson left the stage for good. Unsuccessful as an actor, he established his reputation as a comedy writer with his first major work Every Man in His Humour (1598). His other great plays include Volpone (1606), which probably is the most biting of his satires, The Silent Woman (1609), The Alchemist, and Barthololomew Fair (1614). What is typical of his “comedies of humour,” is the characters obsessed with some passion. Jonson shows all these weaknesses and follies, particularly human greed, and laughs at them derisively.