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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Jonson

“A town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”*…

 

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It was in Athens in the 4th Century BC that a man named Zeno walked into a bookshop. He had been a successful merchant, but suffered a terrible shipwreck on a journey out of Phoenicia, losing a priceless cargo of the world’s finest dye. He was 30 years old and facing financial ruin, but this catastrophe stirred his soul to find something new, though he didn’t quite know what.

One day, immersed in browsing a bookstore collection, many volumes of which have been lost to history forever, Zeno heard the bookseller reading out loud a passage from a book by Xenophon about Socrates. It was like nothing he had ever heard before. With some trepidation, he approached the owner and asked, “Where can I find a man like that?” and in so doing, began a philosophical journey that would literally change the history of the world. That book recommendation led to the founding of Stoicism and then, to the brilliant works of SenecaEpictetus, and Marcus Aurelius — which, not lost to history, are beginning to find a new life on bookshelves today. From those heirs to Zeno’s bookshop conversion, there is a straight line to many of the world’s greatest thinkers, and even to the Founding Fathers of America.

All from a chance encounter in a bookshop.

It would be an understatement to say that great things begin in bookstores, and that countless lives have been changed inside them…

 

Why spend time amongst the shelves? “Good Things Happen in Book Stores.”

* Neil Gaiman, American Gods

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As we browse in bliss, we might spare a thought for Benjamin Jonson; he died on this date in 1637.  A poet, actor, literary critic, and playwright (he popularized the comedy of humours), he is best remembered for his satirical plays Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone, or The Fox (c. 1606), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614), and for his lyric and epigrammatic poetry.

Eclipsing Christopher Marlowe, Jonson is generally regarded as the second most important English playwright during the reigns of Elizabeth I of James VI and I (after Shakespeare, with whom Jonson had a professional rivalry, but on whose death Jonson wrote “He was not of an age, but for all time”).  Indeed, while Shakespeare’s impact continues apace to this day, Jonson’s impact was arguably even bigger in the relatively-more immediate timeframe: he had broad and deep influence on the playwrights and the poets of the Jacobean era (1603–1625) and of the Caroline era (1625–1642).

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Written by LW

August 16, 2018 at 1:01 am

Eh… What’s up, Doc?…

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The inimitable Chuck Jones— animator, and director of well over 200 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts (plus TV specials and feature films) starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Sylvester, Pepé Le Pew and others from the Warner Bros. menagerie– on “how to draw Bugs Bunny”:

From the terrific film Chuck Amuck.

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As we keep an eye out for Elmer, we might send rhyming birthday wishes to Ben Jonson; he was born on this date in 1572.  While Jonson is probably best remembered these days as the author of hysterically-funny satirical plays like  VolponeThe Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, he was also an accomplished poet, whose work  (especially his lyric poetry) was tremendously influential and his Jacobean contemporaries and on the Carolines.

Jonson was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and is often remembered as a rival– probably, given the competitive atmosphere of the theater in those days, accurately.  But it was Jonson who provided the prefatory verse that opens Shakespeare’s First Folio (which Jonson may, some scholars believe, have helped to edit).  Indeed, it was Jonson who animated the view of Shakespeare as a “natural,” an author who, despite “small Latine, and lesse Greeke,” wrote works of genius.  But lest one take that as back-handed praise (Jonson was himself classically educated), Jonson concludes:

Yet must I not give Nature all: Thy Art,

My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part.

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Written by LW

June 11, 2012 at 1:08 am

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