Of humble Scottish origins, Jonson was fortunate in receiving a sponsorship to the Westminster School, one of England’s best. After apprenticing to a bricklayer, he joined the English army. Later, he entered what proved to be an equally dangerous profession by becoming an actor at the Rose Theatre. At that time, actors were continually under suspicion for personal immorality, slander, and political subversion.
Shifting from acting to writing, Jonson helped Thomas Nashe complete a play, The Isle of the Dogs, which the Privy Council decided was lewd in 1597. Its authors and lead actors were ordered arrested. Jonson spent over two months in prison before it was decided that no major offense had taken place. By...
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