Ben Jonson


'O rare Ben Jonson'


Ben Jonson is buried upright in the north aisle of the Nave of Westminster Abbey, London, England.

He told the Dean: "six feet long by two feet wide is too much for me. Two feet by two is all I want". His name was incorrectly spelled when his gravestone was later renewed.

In 1616 he became the first (unofficial) Poet Laureate when he was granted a pension by James I. 

He was undoubtedly one of the most important of the seventeenth-century poets. His poetry embraced classical ideals but dealt uncompromisingly with the life and characters of James 1's court. He is particularly remembered for his epigrams and epitaphs.

Burial Stone of Ben Jonson

He also was one of the pre-eminent poets to frequent the famous Mermaid Tavern in Bread Street. His work influenced many younger poets including Robert Herrick and Sir John Suckling.

It is likely that Jonson coined the word 'playwright' and today he is best remembered for plays such as: Volpone, Every Man in His Humour, Poetaster, The Alchemist etc. He also produced many masques with scenery designed by Inigo Jones. However, ironically, Jonson always saw himself primarily as a poet.

After his death in 1637 many of his friends contributed elegies which were collected in the Jonsonus Virbius which was published in 1638. The inscription: 'O Rare Ben Jonson' was written by a now forgotten poet called Jack Young.

There is also a monument to him in 'Poets' Corner'.

  And since our Dainty age,
    Cannot endure reproof,
  Make not thyself a page
  To that strumpet the Stage,
    But sing high and aloof,
Safe from the wolf's black jaw, and the dull ass's hoof.

An Ode To Himself  (complete poem)

Read more of Jonson's Poetry






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