Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ben Jonson, Sometime Catholic

Ben Jonson was perhaps born on June 11, 1572.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, opined recently that William Shakespeare was most likely a Catholic (but for Anglicans that's a good thing really because Shakespeare was NOT a nice person, buying property and hoarding grain in Stratford!).

Ben Jonson definitely was a Catholic, at least for some time--from 1598 to 1610--before relapsing into Anglicanism. This conversion meant that Jonson was very open to attack, for recusancy and even for treason. In this article, Robert S. Miola analyses what Jonson's Catholicism meant for his career and his works. Miola notes that Jonson had previously been interviewed by Richard Topcliffe, the man with the home (torture) office and that becoming a Catholic could have led to other, less comfortable interviews with Elizabeth I's "savage priest hunter".

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