Ben Jonson is among the best-known writers and theorists of English Renaissance literature, second in reputation only to Shakespeare. A prolific dramatist and a man of letters highly learned in the classics, he profoundly influenced the Augustan age through his emphasis on the precepts of Horace, Aristotle, and other classical Greek and Latin thinkers. While he is now remembered primarily for his satirical comedies, he also distinguished himself as a poet, preeminent writer of masques, erudite defender of his work, and the originator of English literary criticism. Jonson’s pro­fessional reputation is often obscured by that of the man himself: bold, independent and aggressive. He fashioned for himself an image as the sole arbiter of taste, standing for erudition and the supremacy of clas­sical models against what he perceived as the general populace’s ignorant preference for the sensational. While his direct influence can be seen in each genre he undertook, his ultimate legacy is considered to be his literary craftsmanship, his strong sense of artistic form and control, and his role in bringing, as Alex­ander Pope noted, “critical learning into vogue.”

Jonson was born in London shortly after the death of his father, a minister who claimed descent from the Scottish gentry. Despite a poor upbringing, he was educated at Westminster School under the renowned antiquary William Camden. He apparently left his schooling unwillingly to work with his stepfather as a bricklayer. He then served as a volunteer in the Low Countries in the Dutch war against Spain, and the sto­ry is told that he defeated a challenger in single com­bat between the opposing armies, stripping his van­quished opponent of his arms in the classical fashion. Returning to England by 1592, Jonson married Anne Lewis in 1594. Although the union was unhappy, it produced several children, all of whom Jonson out­lived. In the years following his marriage, he became an actor and also wrote numerous “get-penny” enter­tainments—financially motivated and quickly com­posed plays. He also provided respected emendations and additions to Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (1592). By 1597 he was writing for Philip Henslowe’s theatrical company. That year, Henslowe employed Jonson to finish Thomas Nashe’s satire The Isle of Dogs (now lost), but the play was suppressed for al­leged seditious content and Jonson was jailed for a short time. In 1598 the earliest of his extant works, Every Man in His Humour, was produced by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men with William Shakespeare—who became close friends with Jonson—in the cast. That same year, Jonson fell into further trouble after killing actor Gabriel Spencer in a duel, narrowly escaping the gallows by claiming benefit of clergy (meaning he was shown leniency for proving that he was literate and educated). While incarcerated at Newgate prison, Jon­son converted to Catholicism.

Shortly thereafter, writing for the Children of the Queen’s Chapel, Jonson became embroiled in a public feud with playwrights John Marston and Thomas Dekker. In Cynthia’s Revells and Poetaster (both 1601), Jonson portrayed himself as the impartial, well informed judge of art and society and wrote unflattering portraits of the two dramatists. Marston and Dekker counterat­tacked with a satiric portrayal of Jonson in the play Satiromastix; or, The Untrussing of the Humorous Poet (1602). Interestingly, scholars speculate that the dis­pute, which became known as the “War of the The­atres,” was mutually contrived in order to further the authors’ careers. In any event, Jonson later reconciled with Marston, and collaborated with him and George Chapman in writing Eastward Ho! (1605). A joke at the King’s expense in this play landed him once again, along with his coauthors, in prison. Once freed, how­ever, Jonson entered a period of good fortune and productivity. He had many friends at court, and James I valued his learning highly. His abilities thus did not go unrecognized, and he was frequently called upon to write his popular, elegant masques, such as The Mas­que of Blacknesse (1605). During this period, Jonson also produced his most successful comedies, begin­ning in 1606 with Volpone and following with The Silent Woman (1609), The Alchemist (1610), and Bar­tholomew Fayre (1614). Jonson’s remaining tragedies, Sejanus His Fall (1603) and Catiline His Conspiracy (1611), though monuments to his scholarship, were not well received due to their rigid imitation of classical tragic forms and their pedantic tone.

In 1616 Jonson published his Workes, becoming the first English writer to dignify his dramas by terming them “works,” and for this perceived presumption he was soundly ridiculed. In that year Jonson assumed the responsibilities and privileges of Poet Laureate, though without formal appointment. From 1616 to 1625 he primarily wrote masques for presentation at court. He had already collaborated with poet, architect, and stage designer Inigo Jones one several court masques, and the two continued their joint efforts, establishing the reign of James I as the period of the consummate masque. For his achievements, the University of Ox­ford honored him in 1619 with a master of arts degree.

Misfortune, however, marked Jonson’s later years. A fire destroyed his library in 1623, and when James I died in 1625, Jonson lost much of his influence at court, though he was named City Chronologer in 1628. Later that year, he suffered the first of several strokes which left him bedridden. Jonson produced four plays during the reign of Charles I, and was eventually grant­ed a new pension in 1634. None of these later plays was successful. The rest of his life, spent in retirement, he filled primarily with study and writing; at his death, on August 6, 1637, two unfinished plays were discov­ered among his mass of papers and manuscripts. Jon­son left a financially depleted estate, but was neverthe­less buried with honor in Westminster Abbey.

Jonson’s earliest comedies, such as Every Man in His Humour, derive from Roman comedy in form and structure and are noteworthy as models of the comedy of “humours,” in which each character represents a type dominated by a particular obsession. Although Jonson was not the first to employ the comedy of humours, his use of the form in Every Man in His Humour and Every Man out of His Humour is considered exempla­ry, and such characterization continued to be a feature of his work. Of particular significance in appraisals of Jonson are the four comical satires produced between 1606 and 1614: Volpone, The Silent Woman, The Al­chemist, and Bartholomew Fayre. Each exposes some aberration of human appetite through comic exagger­ation and periodic moralisms while evincing Jonson’s interest in the variety of life and in the villain as a cunning, imaginative artist. Volpone, his most famous and most frequently staged work, is also his harshest attack on human vice, specifically targeting greed. Like The Silent Woman and The Alchemist, it mixes didac­tic intent with scenes of tightly constructed comic coun­terpoise. The last of Jonson’s great dramas is the pan­oramic Bartholomew Fayre. Softening the didacticism that characterized his earlier work, Jonson expressed the classical moralist’s views of wisdom and folly through a multiplicity of layered, interrelated plots in a colorfully portrayed and loosely structured form. All four comedies exhibit careful planning executed with classical precision, a command of low speech and col­loquial usage, and a movement toward more realistic, three-dimensional character depiction.

Critics note that Jonson’s later plays, beginning with The Divell is an Asse in 1616, betray the dramatist’s diminishing artistry. These later dramas were dismissed by John Dryden, who undertook the first extensive anal­ysis of Jonson, as mere “dotages.” While generously likening him to Virgil and calling him “the most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had,” Dryden’s comments also signaled the start of a decline in Jonson’s reputation, for his observations included a comparison of Jonson and Shakespeare, one which nodded admiringly toward Jonson, but bowed adoring­ly before Shakespeare. This telling comparison col­ored Jonson’s reputation for more than 200 years, fueled by such 19th-century Romantic critics as Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1818), and Will­iam Hazlitt (1819), who found Jonson lacking in imag­ination, delicacy, and soul. His “greatest defect,” ac­cording to George Saintsbury, was the “want of pas­sion.” “Yet,” he conceded, “his merits are extraordi­nary.” Most 19th-century critics agreed with the assessment of John Addington Symonds that the “higher gifts of poetry, with which Shakespeare—‘nature’s child’—was so richly endowed, are almost absolutely wanting in Ben Jonson.”

T.S. Eliot, writing in 1919, focused attention on Jonson’s reputation as “the most deadly kind that can be compelled upon the memory of a great poet. To be universally accepted; to be damned by the praise that quenches all desire to read the book; to be afflicted by the imputation of the virtues which excite the least pleasure; and to be read only by historians and anti­quaries—this is the most perfect conspiracy of approv­al.” With this began a reevaluation of Jonson, whose reputation benefited from modernist reaction against Romanticist sensibility, and who began to be appreciated on his own terms. English critic L.C. Knights, in 1937, considered Jonson “a very great poet”; and while Edmund Wilson, in 1948, still found none of Shakespeare’s “immense range” in Jonson, he thought him “a great man of letters” and acknowl­edged his influence on writers as diverse as Milton, Congreve, Swift, and Huxley. Recent scholarship has sought to place Jonson in the theatrical and political milieu of London, addressing his relationship with his audience and the monarchy. This focus on historical context has also produced an emphasis on the former bricklayer’s “self-fashioning” into dramatist, critic, and finally the first poet laureate. Many critics now regard him as a fore-runner in the 17th-century move­ment toward classicism, and his plays are often ad­mired for their accurate depictions of the men and women of his day, their mastery of form, and their successful blend of the serious and the comic, the top­ical, and the timeless.

Bibliography

BOOKS

  • The Comicall Satyre of Every Man out of His Humor (London: Printed by Adam Islip for William Holme, 1600).
  • Every Man in His Humor (London: Printed by Simon Stafford for Walter Burre, 1601).
  • The Fountaine of Selfe-Love. Or Cynthias Revells (London: Printed by Richard Read for Walter Burre, 1601).
  • Poetaster or the Arraignment (London: Printed by Richard Braddock for Matthew Lownes, 1602).
  • B. Jon: His Part of King James His Royall and Magnificent Entertainement through His Honourable Cittie of London, Thurseday the 15. of March. 1603 ... Also, A Briefe Panegyre of His Maiesties First and Well Auspicated Entrance to His High Court of Parliament, on Monday, the 19. of the Same Moneth. With Other Additions (London: Printed by Valentine Simmes and George Eld for Edward Blount, 1604).
  • Seianus His Fall (London: Printed by George Eld for Thomas Thorpe, 1605).
  • Eastward Hoe, by Jonson, George Chapman, and John Marston (London: Printed by George Eld for William Aspley, 1605).
  • Hymenaei: or The Solemnities of Masque, and Barriers (London: Printed by Valentine Simmes for Thomas Thorpe, 1606).
  • Ben: Jonson His Volpone or the Foxe (London: Printed by George Eld for Thomas Thorpe, 1607).
  • The Characters of Two Royall Masques. The One of Blacknesse, the Other of Beautie.... The Description of the Masque. With the Nuptial Songs. Celebrating the Happy Marriage of John, Lord Ramsey, Vicount Hadington, with the Lady Elizabeth Ratcliffe (London: Printed by George Eld for Thomas Thorpe, 1608).
  • Ben: Jonson, His Case is Altered (London: Printed by Nicholas Okes for Bartholomew Sutton, 1609).
  • The Masque of Queenes Celebrated from the House of Fame (London: Printed by Nicholas Okes for Richard Bonion & Henry Wally, 1609).
  • Catiline His Conspiracy (London: Printed by William Stansby? for Walter Burre, 1611).
  • The Alchemist (London: Printed by Thomas Snodham, for Walter Burre & sold by John Stepneth, 1612).
  • The Workes of Benjamin Jonson (London: Printed by William Stansby, 1616)--comprises Every Man in His Humour, Every Man out of His Humour, Cynthia's Revels, Poetaster, Sejanus, Volpone, Epicoene, The Alchemist, Catiline, Epigrams, The Forrest, The King's Coronation Entertainment, A Panegyre, The Entertainment at Althorp, The Entertainment at Highgate, The Entertainment of the Two Kings at Theobalds, An Entertainment of the King and Queen at Theobalds, The Masque of Blackness, The Masque of Beauty, Hymenaei, The Haddington Masque, The Masque of Queens, Prince Henry's Barriers, Oberon the Fairy Prince, Love Freed From Ignorance and Folly, Love Restored, A Challenge at Tilt, The Irish Masque, Mercury Vindicated from the Alchemists, The Golden Age Restored.
  • Lovers Made Men. A Masque (London, 1617).
  • Epicoene, or The Silent Woman. A Comoedie (London: Printed by William Stansby & sold by John Browne, 1620).
  • The Masque of Augures. With Several Antimasques (London, 1621).
  • Time Vindicated to Himselfe and to His Honors (London, 1623).
  • Neptunes Triumph for the Returne of Albion, A Masque 1623 (London, 1624).
  • The Fortunate Isles and Their Union. A Masque 1624 (London, 1625).
  • Love's Triumph through Callipolis. A Masque, by Jonson and Inigo Jones (London: Printed by John Norton, Jr., for Thomas Walkley, 1630).
  • Chloridia, Rites to Chloris and Her Nymphs (London: Printed for Thomas Walkley, 1631).
  • Bartholomew Fayre. The Divell Is an Asse. The Staple of Newes (volume 2 of Jonson's works) (London: Printed by John Beale for Robert Allot, 1631).
  • The New Inne. Or, The Light Heart (London: Printed by Thomas Harper for Thomas Alchorne, 1631).
  • Ben: Jonson's Execration against Vulcan. With Divers Epigrams (London: Printed by John Okes for John Benson & Andrew Crooke, 1640).
  • Q. Horatius Flaccus: Horatius Flaccus: His Art of Poetry. Englished by Ben: Jonson. With Other Workes of the Author, Never Printed Before (London: Printed by John Okes for John Benson, 1640).
  • The Workes of Benjamin Jonson, volume 1 (London: Printed by Richard Bishop & sold by A. Crooke, 1640)--a reprint of The Workes of Benjamin Jonson (1616); volumes 2-3 (London: Printed for Richard Meighen & Thomas Walkley, 1640)--comprises the sheets of the 1631 works (volume 2) together with The Magnetic Lady, A Tale of a Tub, The Sad Shepherd, The Fall of Mortimer, Christmas His Masque, Lovers Made Men, The Vision of Delight, Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, For the Honour of Wales, News from the New World Discovered in the Moon, The Gypsies Metamorphosed, The Masque of Augurs, Time Vindicated, Neptune's Triumph, Pan's Anniversary, The Masque of Owls, The Fortunate Isles, Love's Triumph through Callipolis, Chloridia, The Entertainment at Welbeck, Love's Welcome at Bolsover, The Underwood, Horace, His Art of Poetry, The English Grammar, Discoveries (volume 3) (London: Printed by John Dawson, Jr., for Thomas Walkley, 1640).
  • Ben Jonson, 11 volumes, edited by C. H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925-1952)--comprises A Tale of a Tub, The Case is Altered, Every Man in His Humour (original and revised texts), Every Man out of His Humour, In Memoriam: Charles Harold Herford, Cynthia's Revels, Poetaster, Sejanus, Eastward Ho, Volpone, Epicoene, The Alchemist, Catiline, Bartholomew Fair, The Devil is an Ass, The Staple of News, The New Inn, The Magnetic Lady, The Sad Shepherd, The Fall of Mortimer, Masques and Entertainments, The Poems, The Prose Works.
  • Ben Jonson, edited by Ian Donaldson (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).
  • See DLB 62.

Further Readings

  • Samuel A. Tannenbaum, Ben Jonson: A Concise Bibliography (New York: Privately printed, 1938) and Samuel A. Tannenbaum and Dorothy R. Tannenbaum, Supplement to a Concise Bibliography of Ben Jonson (New York: Privately printed, 1947); both republished as volume 4 of Elizabethan Bibliographies (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1967).
  • D. Heywood Brock and James M. Welsh, Ben Jonson: A Quadricentennial Bibliography, 1947-1972 (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1974).
  • James Hogg, Recent Research on Ben Jonson (Salzburg, Austria: Institut für Englische Sprache und Literatur, 1978).
  • Walter D. Lehrman, Delores J. Sarafinski, and Elizabeth Savage, The Plays of Ben Jonson: A Reference Guide (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980).
  • David C. Judkins, The Nondramatic Works of Ben Jonson: A Reference Guide (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982).
  • Marchette Chute, Ben Jonson of Westminster (New York: Dutton, 1953).
  • Rosalind Miles, Ben Jonson: His Life and Work (London & New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986).
  • David Riggs, Ben Jonson: A Life (Cambridge, Mass. & London: Harvard University Press, 1989).
  • Eckhard Auberlen, The Commonwealth of Wit: The Writer's Image and His Strategies of Self-Representation in Elizabethan Literature (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1984).
  • J. B. Bamborough, Ben Jonson (London: Hutchinson, 1970).
  • Jonas A. Barish, ed., Ben Jonson: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963).
  • Anne Barton, Ben Jonson, Dramatist (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).
  • L. A. Beaurline, "Ben Jonson and the Illusion of Completeness," PMLA, 84 (1969): 51-59.
  • Gerald Eades Bentley, Shakespeare and Jonson. Their Reputations in the Seventeenth Century Compared, 2 volumes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945).
  • William Blissett, Julian Patrick, and R. W. Van Fossen, eds., A Celebration of Ben Jonson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973).
  • J. F. Bradley and J. Q. Adams, The Jonson Allusion-Book, 1597-1700 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1922).
  • Jennifer Brady, "'Beware the Poet': Authority and Judgment in Jonson's Epigrammes," Studies in English Literature, 23 (Winter 1983): 95-112.
  • William E. Cain, "The Place of the Poet in Jonson's 'To Penshurst' and 'To my Muse,'" Criticism, 21 (Winter 1979): 34-48.
  • Cain, "Self and Others in Two Poems by Ben Jonson," Studies in Philology, 80 (Spring 1983): 163-182.
  • Paul M. Cubeta, "Ben Jonson's Religious Lyrics," Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 62 (1963): 96-110.
  • Richard Dutton, Ben Jonson: To the First Folio (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
  • Robert C. Evans, Ben Jonson and the Poetics of Patronage (Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1989).
  • Evans, Jonson, Lipsius, and the Politics of Renaissance Stoicism (Wakefield, N.H.: Longwood, 1992).
  • Anne Ferry, All in War with Time: Love Poetry of Shakespeare, Donne, Jonson, Marvell (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975).
  • Richard Finkelstein, "Ben Jonson's Ciceronian Rhetoric of Friendship," Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 16 (Spring 1986): 103-124.
  • Stanley Fish, "Authors-Readers: Jonson's Community of the Same," Representations, no. 7 (Summer 1984): 26-58.
  • Alastair Fowler, "The Silva Tradition and Jonson's The Forrest," in Poetic Traditions of the English Renaissance, edited by Maynard Mack and George DeForest Lord (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982).
  • Harris Friedberg, "Ben Jonson's Poetry: Pastoral, Georgic, Epigram," English Literary Renaissance, 4 (Winter 1974): 111-135.
  • Judith K. Gardiner, Craftsmanship in Context: The Development of Ben Jonson's Poetry (The Hague: Mouton, 1975).
  • Thomas M. Greene, "Ben Jonson and the Centered Self," Studies in English Literature, 10 (Spring 1970): 325-348.
  • Greene, The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982).
  • Achsah Guibbory, "The Poet as Mythmaker: Ben Jonson's Poetry of Praise," Clio, 5 (Spring 1976): 315-329.
  • Richard Helgerson, Self-Crowned Laureates: Spenser, Jonson, Milton, and the Literary System (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983).
  • W. H. Herendeen, "Like a Circle Bounded in Itself: Jonson, Camden, and the Strategies of Praise," Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 11 (Fall 1981): 137-167.
  • G. R. Hibbard, "The Country House Poem of the Seventeenth Century," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute, 19 (1956): 159-174.
  • George Burke Johnston, Ben Jonson: Poet (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945).
  • Jonathan Z. Kamholtz, "Ben Jonson's Epigrammes and Poetic Occasions," Studies in English Literature, 23 (Winter 1983): 77-94.
  • Kamholtz, "Ben Jonson's Green World: Structure and Imaginative Unity in The Forest," Studies in Philology, 78 (Spring 1978): 170-193.
  • W. David Kay, "The Christian Wisdom of Ben Jonson's 'On My First Sonne,'" Studies in English Literature, 11 (Winter 1971): 125-136.
  • William R. Keast, ed., Seventeenth Century English Poetry: Modern Essays in Criticism, revised edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1971).
  • Joseph John Kelly, "Ben Jonson's Politics," Renaissance and Reformation, new series 7 (August 1983): 192-215.
  • William Kerrigan, "Ben Jonson Full of Shame and Scorn," Studies in the Literary Imagination, 6 (April 1973): 199-217.
  • Alexander Leggatt, Ben Jonson: His Vision and His Art (London: Methuen, 1981).
  • John Lemly, "Masks and Self-Portraits in Jonson's Late Poetry," English Literary History, 44 (Summer 1977): 248-266.
  • Joseph Loewenstein, "The Jonsonian Corpulence: or, The Poet as Mouthpiece," English Literary History, 53 (Fall 1986): 491-518.
  • Hugh Maclean, ed., Ben Jonson and the Cavalier Poets (New York: Norton, 1974).
  • Arthur F. Marotti, "All About Jonson's Poetry," English Literary History, 39 (June 1972): 208-237.
  • Katharine Eisaman Maus, Ben Jonson and the Roman Frame of Mind (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).
  • William A. McClung, The Country House in English Renaissance Poetry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977).
  • David McPherson, Ben Jonson's Library and Marginalia: An Annotated Catalogue: Texts and Studies, 1974, special issue of Studies in Philology, 71 (December 1974).
  • Earl Miner, The Cavalier Mode from Jonson to Cotton (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971).
  • Richard Newton, Foundations of Ben Jonson's Poetic Style: Epigrammes and The Forest (New York: Garland, 1988).
  • J. G. Nichols, The Poetry of Ben Jonson (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1969).
  • David Norbrook, Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984).
  • George Parfitt, Ben Jonson: Public Poet and Private Man (London: Dent, 1976).
  • Edward B. Patridge, "Jonson's Epigrammes: The Named and the Nameless," Studies in the Literary Imagination, 6 (April 1973): 153-198.
  • Annabel Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984).
  • E. Pearlman, "Ben Jonson: An Anatomy," English Literary Renaissance, 9 (Autumn 1979); 364-394.
  • Richard S. Peterson, Imitation and Praise in the Poems of Ben Jonson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981).
  • Wayne H. Phelps, "The Date of Ben Jonson's Death," Notes and Queries, 27 (April 1980): 146-149.
  • G. W. Pigman III, "Suppressed Grief in Jonson's Funeral Poetry," English Literary Renaissance, 13 (Spring 1983): 203-220.
  • J. C. A. Rathmell, "Jonson, Lord Lisle, and Penshurst," English Literary Renaissance, 1 (Autumn 1971): 250-260.
  • James A. Riddell, "The Arrangement of Ben Jonson's Epigrammes," Studies in English Literature, 27 (Winter 1987): 53-70.
  • Isabel Rivers, The Poetry of Conservatism, 1600-1745: A Study of Poets and Public Affairs from Jonson to Pope (Cambridge: Rivers Press, 1973).
  • George E. Rowe, Distinguishing Jonson: Imitation, Rivalry, and the Direction of a Dramatic Career (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988).
  • Bruce R. Smith, "Ben Jonson's Epigrammes: Portrait-Gallery, Theater, Commonwealth," Studies in English Literature, 14 (Winter 1974): 91-109.
  • Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth, Ben Jonson (Boston: Twayne, 1979).
  • Summers and Pebworth, eds., Classic and Cavalier: Essays on Jonson and the Sons of Ben (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982).
  • Summers and Pebworth, eds., "The Muses Commonweale": Poetry and Politics in the Seventeenth Century" (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988).
  • Joseph Summers, The Heirs of Donne and Jonson (London: Oxford University Press, 1970).
  • Wesley Trimpi, Ben Jonson's Poems: A Study in the Plain Style (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1962).
  • Sara J. van den Berg, The Action of Ben Jonson's Poetry (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1987).
  • Lawrence Venuti, "Why Jonson Wrote Not of Love," Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 12 (Fall 1982): 195-220.
  • Don E. Wayne, Penshurst: The Semiotics of Place and the Poetics of History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984).
  • Wayne, "Poetry and Power in Ben Jonson's Epigrammes: The Naming of 'Facts' or the Figuring of Social Relations," Renaissance and Modern Studies 23 (1979): 79-103.
  • Robert Wiltenburg, Ben Jonson and Self-Love: The Subtlest Maze of All (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1990).
  • Jack D. Winner, "Ben Jonson's Epigrammes and the Conventions of Formal Verse Satire," Studies in English Literature, 23 (Winter 1983): 61-76.
  • R. V. Young, Jr., "Style and Structure in Jonson's Epigrammes," Criticism, 17 (Summer 1975): 201-222.