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An Audience with Ben Jonson

By Martin Dimery


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In 1618, Ben Jonson, playwright and Poet Laureate, set out on a walk from London to Edinburgh, probably to accomplish a report for King James VI on his native country. It is thought that walking the journey would help to shed some of his twenty stones or his " mountaine belly'' as referred to in the poem " My Picture Left in Scotland''. Jonson was entertained at Hawthornden Castle near Edinburgh by the Laird, William Drummond. Drummond was a man of great learning and intellect. He spoke several languages and was a historian of some note, completing a considerable study on the five James, King of Scotland. Drummond was also an eloquent writer and the first Scots poet to embrace the English language. His verses convey a deeply philosophical, introverted personality in contrast to the gregarious braggart, Jonson. Drummond's record of the meeting " Conversations with Ben Jonson'' have been dramatised to provide two equally balanced, challenging and enjoyable acting parts. The characters reconstruct episodes from Jonson's life including his duels, his intrigues and his friendship with Shakespeare, in a series of entertaining episodes simply set throughout. Performed at the Cafe Royal Theatre in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 1996, " An Audience with Ben Jonson'' also includes five original songs which may be incorporated in performance. The musical score by Simon Horsey is obtainable directly through the publisher.