CHAPTER VI
THE TRAGEDIES: THE SAD SHEPHERD

WHEN Meres, in 1598, named Jonson as one of nine poets who were "our best for Tragedy," he offered a compliment which we are not in a position to test, and with which, in the light of the dramatist's later work, we might be loath to concur. Henslowe tells us nothing of these earlier years of dramatic apprenticeship beyond recording the poet's association with Chettle and Porter in a comedy Hot Anger soon Cold, and his sketch of the plot of a tragedy, finished by Chapman, which some have associated with the fragment of Mortimer, his Fall, recovered posthumously. As this tragedy, as well as the comedy, was not ready for the stage or the printer when Meres made his survey, we must assume that he based his judgement on work now altogether lost. Jonson himself gives us no aid. In later years he told Drummond that "half of his comedies were not in print," but he never spoke of any tragedies other than Sejanus and Catiline. That he did not renounce tragedy, after he had found his strength in comedy in 1598, is shown by his collaboration in 1599 in the missing Page of Plymouth and Robert II., King of Scots, and, as late as 1602, in his preparation of Richard Crookback and his

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Ben Jonson
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Chapter I- Early Life 1
  • Chapter II- Middle Life and Close 23
  • Chapter III- Literary Conscience 56
  • Chapter IV- The Comedies 66
  • Chapter V- The Masques 128
  • Chapter VI- The Tragedies- The Sad Shepherd 185
  • Chapter VII- The Poems 213
  • Chapter VIII- Spolia Opima 249
  • Chapter IX- Influence 272
  • Index 303
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