Ben Jonson pp 63-77 | Cite as

Matters of State

  • W. David Kay
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)


So far as one can judge by the ‘Apologetical Dialogue’ to Poetaster, Jonson’s impulse after the War of the Theatres seems to have been to withdraw into scholarly seclusion. His decision to abandon comedy for tragedy and his declaration that he would be satisfied to please an audience of one, ‘so he judicious be’ (see ll. 220–6), indicate that he may already have been planning his classically-inspired tragedy of Sejanus His Fall. Yet it was apparently not until February 1603 that he was relieved of anxiety about his day-to-day support. Then John Manningham reported in his diary, on the authority of Thomas Overbury, that ‘Ben Jonson the poet now lives upon … [Robert] Townshend and scorns the world’.1 The patronage of Townshend, and later of Esmé Stuart, Lord D’Aubigny, freed him for the intensive classical study required for Sejanus and for his ‘observations upon Horace his Art of Poetry, which (with the text translated)’ he had almost completed by the time the Quarto of Sejanus was printed in August 1605.2


Privy Council Classical Deity Oblique Commentary Guardian Spirit Noble Nature 
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Copyright information

© W. David Kay 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. David Kay
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUSA

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