1616: A good year for some

1616 might not have been a good year for William Shakespeare, but another playwright found more in the way of good fortune ...

Saturday 12 March 2016

Festivals - History *and* memorabilia - Shakespeare

Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare

Image: Chandos portrait

Maybe you are already drowning in a surfeit of information and events surrounding this year's 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death?

Alternatively of course, you may be revelling in the prospect of the goodies about to hit the airwaves and stages around the country.

Either way, 1616 was actually a year where more happened than the sad death of William Shakespeare.

In particular, it was a very good year for Shakespeare's contemporary, fellow dramatist, and rival, Ben Jonson.

Checking our new show listings the other day, I came across Jonson's The Alchemist - scheduled for The Rose Playhouse from 7 to 30 June 2016.

And that led me to do a spot of checking about Jonson and I discovered that 1616 was quite a year for him.

Right at the beginning of the year on January 1st, King James I attended a masque written by Jonson entitled The Golden Age Restored, a satire about the fallen court favorite the Earl of Somerset.

Fortunately, the King must have liked it rather a lot as he asked for a repeat performance on January 6.

Jonson's work must really have struck a chord with the King because only a month later on February 1st he gave Jonson an annual pension of 100 marks, making him (in all but name) the poet laureate.

By October, Jonson's satirical five-act comedy The Devil is an Ass was in performance at the Blackfriars Theatre in London by the King's Men, poking fun at contemporary belief in witchcraft.

And finally, in November, Jonson topped-off his rather lucrative year by publishing a folio edition of his collected poems and plays - the first for an English playwright.

Here's the title page ...

Title page from the first folio of the works of Ben Jonson.

Title page of The Workes of Beniamin Ionson (1616)

So, not a bad year for Jonson, eh?

For other major events in 1616, see the Wikipedia page for that year.


Ben Johnson Wikipedia page

The Alchemist at The Rose Playhouse

Biography of Johnson

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