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Plague Writing in Early Modern England$
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Ernest B. Gilman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226294094

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226294117.001.0001

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[] Here Lies Ben Jonson

[] Here Lies Ben Jonson

(p.163) [Chapter 4] Here Lies Ben Jonson
Plague Writing in Early Modern England

Ernest B. Gilman

University of Chicago Press

Given the inescapably stark realities of life and death in Jonson's London, it might seem surprising that the plague and its contemporary accounts have not figured more importantly in readings of Jonson's nondramatic poetry. One exception is the work of Patrick Phillips, who shows that the shadow of the plague haunts Jonson's writing career, from the epigrams to his epitaphs for John Roe, through The Alchemist to the Cary-Morison ode—all documents in the history of the poet's bereavement. Such an overview goes far toward probing the sources of Jonson's deep-seated melancholy, his continuing traumatic need to rewrite the death of his “best piece of poetrie,” his returning to the scene of a young man dead of infectious disease and mourned by the older poet, and the motivation behind his paternal sponsorship of a younger generation of the “Sons of Ben.”

Keywords:   Ben Jonson, plague, nondramatic poetry, Alchemist, melancholy, infectious disease, bereavement

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