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Analysis:             Poet's Biography

Ben Jonson, a towering figure of English Renaissance literature, was born in June 1572, in Westminster, London. His contributions as a playwright, poet, and literary critic significantly shaped the development of English literature during the early 17th century. Jonson's work is characterized by its classical precision, satirical edge, and deep understanding of human nature, setting him apart as a writer of immense talent and influence in the era of Shakespeare.

Jonson's early life was marked by challenges. He lost his father, a clergyman, shortly before his birth and was later raised by a stepfather who was a master bricklayer. Despite these humble beginnings, Jonson was able to attend Westminster School, where he received a classical education under the tutelage of William Camden, a renowned antiquarian and historian. This education profoundly influenced Jonson's literary work, embedding in him a deep appreciation for classical literature and its forms.

Jonson's career in the theater began in the 1590s. He worked both as an actor and a playwright, quickly establishing himself with works that displayed his wit, erudition, and distinctive style. His comedies, such as "Every Man in His Humour" (1598) and "Volpone" (1606), are celebrated for their sharp satire and insightful commentary on human follies and vices. These plays are marked by their realistic portrayal of contemporary London life, a departure from the romanticized settings of many Elizabethan dramas.

In addition to his comedies, Jonson also wrote masques, a form of courtly entertainment involving music, dance, and elaborate staging. His masques, such as "Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue" and "The Masque of Blackness," were popular among the nobility, including King James I and his court. Jonson's work in this genre is noted for its poetic elegance and ingenuity in design and staging.

As a poet, Jonson's work is equally significant. His lyric poems, such as those found in "The Forest" and "Underwoods," are renowned for their classical restraint, precision, and subtle beauty. His famous poem "To Celia" ("Drink to me only with thine eyes...") is a quintessential example of his skillful and elegant poetic style.

Jonson's influence extended beyond his plays and poems. He was a central figure in the literary culture of his time, mentoring younger poets such as Robert Herrick and Richard Lovelace. His role in fostering a community of writers and his advocacy for literature as a serious and respectable profession were instrumental in elevating the status of the writer in English society.

Despite his success, Jonson's life was not without controversy. He had a combative personality and was involved in several feuds with other playwrights. Additionally, his plays occasionally ran afoul of political and religious authorities, leading to periods of imprisonment and censorship.

In conclusion, Ben Jonson's legacy in English literature is profound. His mastery of language, deep engagement with classical forms, and keen satirical eye make him one of the key figures of the English Renaissance. His work not only entertained and challenged his contemporaries but also left a lasting impact on the development of English drama and poetry, cementing his status as a titan of literary history.

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