[] Here Lies Ben Jonson

Ernest B. Gilman

in Plague Writing in Early Modern England

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780226294094
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226294117 | DOI:
[] Here Lies Ben Jonson

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Given the inescapably stark realities of life and death in Jonson's London, it might seem surprising that the plague and its contemporary accounts have not figured more importantly in readings of Jonson's nondramatic poetry. One exception is the work of Patrick Phillips, who shows that the shadow of the plague haunts Jonson's writing career, from the epigrams to his epitaphs for John Roe, through The Alchemist to the Cary-Morison ode—all documents in the history of the poet's bereavement. Such an overview goes far toward probing the sources of Jonson's deep-seated melancholy, his continuing traumatic need to rewrite the death of his “best piece of poetrie,” his returning to the scene of a young man dead of infectious disease and mourned by the older poet, and the motivation behind his paternal sponsorship of a younger generation of the “Sons of Ben.”

Keywords: Ben Jonson; plague; nondramatic poetry; Alchemist; melancholy; infectious disease; bereavement

Chapter.  10299 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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