Shakespeare Saturday: Ben Jonson

Heyo! Welcome to today’s Shakespeare Saturday!

You may have noticed that today’s entry isn’t about Shakespeare.

*gasp*

I know! This is supposed to be about William Shakespeare, not some guy most of you have never heard of. (Seriously, when A told one of her friends about Bill and Ben’s Excellent Adventure, their response was to say they’d never heard of Ben before. *sad/angry face*) But Ben Jonson is important, too, and I want to talk about him since he’s, you know, the Ben in ‘Bill and Ben’.

In our version, Ben Jonson is the sort-of Salieri to Shakespeare’s Mozart, but not in the ‘insanely jealous and trying to sabotage’ him sort of way, just in the ‘why doesn’t that ASSHOLE appreciate his gifts’ sort of way. He is serious, studious, and devoted to the craft as a craft, necessitating hard work and agonizing hours. The play is a discussion of the merits of theater vs film, and, where Shakespeare takes the side of film, Jonson is steadfast in his defense of theater. He’s a bit pedantic, has a tendency to be a bit judge-y, and takes himself too seriously, but he is also loyal, hard-working, and surprisingly able to admit to the greatness of others. Straight up Ravenpuff, y’all.

(For the record, I think Shakespeare is probably a Slytherdor.)

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, the real Ben Jonson was a contemporary of Shakespeare, but out-lived him by about twenty years and went on to become, arguably, the first Poet Laureate of England. He was very popular during the reign of James I and kept his position in the early years of Charles I, as well. Unlike Shakespeare, he was a master of the boys choirs and Court Masques that became popular in the Jacobite years. (And, even though our Ben complains about Shakespeare being all about spectacle, was rather known for spectacle himself. The disappearing stage mentioned in The Tempest is probably a reference to one of Jonson’s Masques.) He hasn’t become The Bard, obviously, but he has been consistently performed (minus the shut-down of the theaters) for the past 400 years.

And he makes a hell of a straight man to Shakespeare’s ridiculous shenanigans.

Bill and Ben’s Excellent Adventure is still in the works, but we’re almost ready to send it out into the world! Stay tuned!

Tomorrow, we silly!

C

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