Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Tribe of Ben Jonson - The Cavalier Poets

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) – Shakespeare's Greatest Rival

Ben was very controversial and arrogant. He was a main figure in the "War of the Theatre" between him and other playwrights. He went to jail many times for mocking politicians and for religious reasons. His greatest luck came when King James I came to power. Ben wrote many masques for the royal court - a masque is a kind of play/dance/party where anyone invited can join in. Ben Jonson became England's first poet laureate, and was very popular with his own "tribe" of followers. While he criticized Shakespeare, Ben also respected him, dedicating a poem to Shakespeare in the introduction to his First Folio.

Robert Herrick  (1591-1674) – The Loyalist Vicar

Raised as a goldsmith by his family, Herrick went to St. John’s College and then Trinity Hall. He began writing poems, dedicating five to Ben Jonson. He became a minister in 1623, and then vicar (farár) of the village of Dean Prior. He remained loyal to the king during Cromwell’s Civil War, for which he lost his job. Upon the restoration of Charles II, Herrick appealed and got his old job back. Herrick wrote over 2,500 poems, half of which were published in the book Hesperides. His poems emphasize that life is short, and love is great, so make the most of your time.

Thomas Carew (1595-1640) - Last Name Pronounced "Carey"

Son of a judge, the most interesting anecdote in this man's life was when he was walking with King Charles I to his queen's bedroom. According to legend, he "tripped" and fell as soon as he saw the queen with another man, Lord St. Albans, and King Charles never noticed, as Carew's candle went out as it hit the ground, giving Lord Albans time to hide. This made him good friends with the queen.

Sir John Suckling (1609-1642) - The Card Shark
The son of a diplomat by the same name, Sir John was a soldier and master card player, inventing the game "Cribbage" and winning over £20,000. He was loyal to King Charles I to a fault, even planning to use French soldiers to break in and free Thomas Wentworth. Suckling had to flee to France, where he died mysteriously. Some say he drank poison, fearing poverty.

Richard Lovelace  (1618-1657)

Richard came from a military family, and became a soldier himself. Considered a charming and handsome man, he supported the king, for which he was imprisoned throughout much of the Civil War. He's famous for these lines from his poem, "To Althea, from Prison":

     Stone walls do not a prison make,
     Nor iron bars a cage;
     Minds innocent and quiet take
     That for an hermitage

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