Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ben Jonson

A new month, and a new episode of BardCast! This one is about Ben Jonson, he was a pretty cool guy, if rather stuck-up. Please respond to our newest poll, while you're here!

This is one of the better sources of Jonson's works.

Things I forgot to mention this episode:
  • Ben Jonson was probably a bricklayer before he became a professional writer. It's not for sure, but it's the most likely job. 
  • Ben Jonson once got in trouble for writing a semi-treasonous play, and he learned from that never to write against the monarchy.
To Celia,
Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine. Or leave a kiss but in the cup
And I'll not look for wine.

The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much hon'ring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be;

But thou thereon did'st only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me,
Since when it grows and smells, I swear
Not of itself, but thee.
(Thanks, Wikipedia!)


    1. Great episode as always! A couple questions:

      (1) Can the vote from people with donations count as, you know, more than a normal vote?
      (2) Will there eventually be a play about Christopher Marlowe? I know you're a Shakespeare Podcast - no, THE Shakespeare podcast - but, as far as entertainment-value is concerned, I believe Marlowe deserves an episode more than Jonson does.

    2. On, and one more question: Why exactly is The Lion King an option on the poll? Is it as a joke, or is there some connection to Hamlet I don't know about?

      AND WildeCast is something I'd LOVE to listen to. I'm obsessed with Wilde. I have his complete works and recently ordered the uncensored addition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which Harvard recently published. I haven't read it yet, but I imagine it's something you guys would be interested in if you like Wilde so... here's a link I guess:


    3. The votes from money are completely independent from the regular votes, if we get people donating money, there will be no need for regular votes.

    4. Also yes, we do intend to do something about Marlowe, he actually has much less written about him than you'd expect.

    5. Yeah, I've been unable to find much to read about him outside of Bill Bryson's book on Shakespeare and the introductions to the books I have of Marlowe's works.

    6. The Lion King has the plot of Hamlet, but it's mostly in there as a joke.

      I had never known that Dorian Grey had been censored, thanks for that tip!

    7. Was Derek Jacobi left out of the poll because he's an Oxfordian blasphemer?

      He was in the 1980 BBC production of Hamlet, and he was quite brilliant in it.

    8. Great podcast, guys. A lot of stuff I didn't know.

      For the poll, is it correct that you mean the production rather than just the performance as Hamlet himself? I guess the fact that you say Zafarelli rather than Mel Gibson answers that.

      But as far as just performances, both Kevin Kline & Campbell Scott did really well as Hamlet on DVDs available from Netflix, although the rest of the productions don't measure up quite as well.

      Nice touch with The Lion King. But you left out Strange Brew!

    9. I wrote the poll up at the last second, I didn't really intend anything by it! Man, we're going to have to watch a lot of stuff for this episode, so many movies out there.

    10. Are you planning to do the Hamlet episodes consecutively?

    11. Not necessarily. We generally only plan one episode in advance.

    12. Thank you for doing a Ben Jonson podcast! I'm just about to start my summer reading on him tomorrow so I discovered this episode just in time :)

    13. Since you guys probably won't find too many respectable people to say Hamlet "is most certainly an artistic failure," I figured you might be interested in the following essay by T. S. Eliot: bartleby.com/200/sw9.html

      Also, here's an essay by him on Ben Jonson: bartleby.com/200/sw10.html

    14. Oops, I also wanted to recommend this essay by Oscar Wilde: readbookonline.net/read/9873/23984/
      It's just a review of a performance he saw, but I thought the following point Wilde made about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern was interesting: "They are, I think, the only characters Shakespeare has not cared to individualise."

      Sorry to more or less spam you with all these essays. Please let me know if you'd rather I didn't post such stuff on here.

    15. This stuff is great, it's exactly what we're hoping for from our listeners: For them to do our work for us!

    16. Well, if you're going to do Marlowe, you should also do Thomas Middleton and Beaumont & Fletcher (who arguably were more successful as playwrights than Jonson). BTW - I got all this from a great book: "Shakespeare & Co." by Stanley Wells. Great podcast guys!

    17. Meh... - I thought Derek Jacobi's portrayal was kinda "girly"...

      Other video Hamlet's to consider for voting:

      Richard Burton - 1964
      Innokenti Smoktunovsky - 1964 (my personal favorite - fantastic ghost! great cinematography! AWESOME score by Dmitri Shostakovich!)
      Nicol Williamson - 1969
      Kevin Kline - 1990
      Campbell Scott - 2000

    18. I'm looking forward to watching Innokenti Smoktunovsky's Hamlet once I've taken a few more semesters of Russian so that I can appreciate Pasternak's interpretation.

      The only other one of those with which I'm familiar is Kevin Kline's. It's the first performance I saw, and I honestly didn't like it very much. I don't have too many complaints aside from that nothing really stuck out about it. It just felt like a reasonably good dramatic reading. As I said, I haven't seen the other ones but I have a feeling versions other than Olivier, Branagh, and Tennant wouldn't rack many if any votes - The Lion King being the great exception.

    19. I voted for Tennant, but I was very torn between his and Olivier's.

    20. Oh snap! One week 'til we're due for another episode of BardCast!

    21. Hey guys, well this has gone full circle! I'm "dodgycupcake" above, and have now long ago completed my Jonson studies and am going over them again for finals :)

      You mention that Ben Jonson called his volume of plays "Works", which was actually quite significant - at the time only classical texts that had been established long ago were called works, so calling his own silly plays "works" was quite a bold - and laughed at - move. This is probably what influenced the compilers of Shakespeare's plays, which were not called "works" but "a catalogue of the severall comedies, histories, and tragedies" - especially significant because it could have influenced the generic separation of the plays, which as we know was not entirely intended by Shakespeare.

      As for the technicality of Jonson's language, critics have compared it to the advancing technology of the age, especially in theatre. Jonson was becoming increasingly paranoid about set designer Inigo Jones taking over his role as "maker" of plays (See his poem "An Expostulation with Inigo Jones")

      Peter Conrad's "Cassell's History of English Literature" has a really good section on how Shakespeare influenced Jonson and the differences between their writing. Subtle from Jonson's "The Alchemist" is called "a fraudulent Prospero" :)

      Finally, I laughed at the anonymous poem too. That might end up in my exam essay somehow, so thanks guys! :)