Born in 1572 in London, Ben Jonson was an actor and playwright during and after the time of Shakespeare. His first great success was the play Every Man in his Humour. It was performed in 1598 at the Globe, and after that he was considered a celebrity.
Jonson wrote many plays throughout his career, the most famous of which are The Alchemist and Volpone. The reign of King James I was the height of Jonson’s career.
Though stories of his relationship with Shakespeare are rarely based on fact, it is known that Jonson openly criticized Shakespeare's plays. Legends also tell of the two having conversations in the Mermaid Tavern where Shakespeare would often win their disputes. Despite whatever differences they had during Shakespeare’s life, Jonson did admit some respect for him after his death, as he wrote a preface for the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays and called him the "sweet Swan of Avon".
Jonson continued to write plays long after Shakespeare's death. His career began to decline in the 1620s, and he fell out of royal favor when King Charles I took the throne. He died in 1637.
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