Bartholomew Fair by Ben Jonson (1614)

Bartholomew Fair is a very long comic play set in London’s huge and sprawling Bartholomew Fair. The fair had been held every year on 24 August since the 12th century in the precincts of the Priory at West Smithfield, outside the Aldersgate, and by Jonson’s day had grown into a massive, teeming festival of entertainment, […]

The Alchemist by Ben Jonson (1610)

The Alchemist is a plague play. Not only was it written in 1610, when the London theatres were closed (yet again) for (yet another) outbreak of plague, but the plot itself derives from that fact. The master of the house, Lovewit, has (like everyone else who can afford it) fled London and is waiting at […]

Volpone or The Fox by Ben Jonson (1606)

Michael Jamieson edited the old Penguin paperback edition of Ben Jonson’s three greatest hits which are Volpone (1606), The Alchemist (1610) and Bartholomew Fair (1614). Jonson is often depicted as Shakespeare’s greatest rival in the second half of his career, as Christopher Marlowe (d.1593) was the leading figure right at the start. Maybe – but […]

Eastward Ho! by George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston (1605)

Six salient facts: 1. Eastward Ho and Westward Ho were the cries of the watermen who plied on the Thames, telling customers which way they were headed. 2. Eastward Ho! was a collaboration between three leading playwrights of the era, George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston. Scholars have been arguing for centuries about who […]

Every Man In His Humour by Ben Jonson (1598)

‘O, manners! that this age should bring forth such creatures! that nature should be at leisure to make them!’ (Ned Knowell, Every Man In His Humour, Act 4, scene 5) When he came to oversee the collection of all the poetry and plays he wished to preserve in a Folio edition of his Works in 1616, […]

Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen (2006)

‘Face it, we live in a stinking shitwash of cruelty and greed and rotten manners.’ (Honey Santana, the nature girl of the title, page 264) Chapter one Tommy Tigertail was the strong, silent Native American member of the four-strong eco-‘terrorist’ group led by renegade journalist Skip Wiley, who wreaked havoc in Hiaasen’s farcical first novel, […]

The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe (1589)

‘But I perceive there is no love on earth, Pity in Jews, nor piety in Turks…’ (Abigail, after learning her father conspired to get her true love murdered) Provenance First recorded performance: 26 February 1592, by Lord Strange’s acting company. First published: 1592. Earliest extant edition, 1633. This was published to coincide with a revival […]

Tamburlaine part 2 by Christopher Marlowe (1587)

Full title The Second Part of The bloody Conquests of mighty Tamburlaine. With his impassionate fury, for the death of his Lady and loue faire Zenocrate; his fourme of exhortacion and discipline to his three sons, and the maner of his own death. The sequel Tamburlaine was such a phenomenal theatrical, cultural and financial success, […]

Dido, Queen of Carthage by Christopher Marlowe (1587)

Information about Marlowe’s plays is patchy. Dido is generally thought to be Marlowe’s first play but it is anyone’s guess when it was written, sometime between 1587 when Marlowe arrived in London from Cambridge and 1594 when it was published. The Marlowe scholar Roma Gill thinks it was probably written before Marlowe left Cambridge in 1587. […]

Hero and Leander by Christopher Marlowe

Scholarship attributes Marlowe’s poems – Hero and Leander and his translations of Ovid and Lucan – to his time at Cambridge, before he came down to London and started writing for the stage i.e. before he was 23. Hero and Leander is incomplete. Marlowe conceived it as a miniature epic or epyllion retelling the ancient love story […]