Welcome to Episode #019 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.

I believe that if you want to understand Shakespeare's plays, then understanding the life of William Shakespeare, the man, is essential. This podcast is designed to help you explore early modern England as Shakespeare would have lived it by interviewing the historians, performers, authors, and experts that know him best.

Rivals in life and legacy, Ben Jonson is a playwright who gave Shakespeare a run for his money. His creativity on stage was even said to have influenced some of Shakespeare's plays. But was Jonson friends with William Shakespeare?

Today, our guide into the life of William Shakespeare is Helen Ostovich. Helen has been studying William Shakespeare, and Jonson in particular for many years and would likely agree that Ben Jonson has become a friend to her for how much she knows about him. Helen is professor emerita if McMasters University and author of several publications that focus on the life of work of Ben Jonson.

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Helen Ostovich is Professor Emerita of English & Cultural Studies at McMaster University, founding editor of the journal Early Theatre, and general editor of The Revels Plays and of the digital series Queen’s Men Editions. She is Series Editor of the former Ashgate Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama, now published by Routledge.  As a play-editor, she prepared The Magnetic Lady for The Cambridge Works of Ben Jonson (2012); The Late Lancashire Witches and A Jovial Crew for Richard Brome Online (2009); and with Holger Syme and Andrew Griffin, a volume of essays, Locating the Queen’s Men, 1583-1603 (2009). She has prepared The Ball for The Complete Works of James Shirley (OUP) and The Merry Wives of Windsor for Norton Shakespeare 3. Her most recent essay collections include The Chester Cycle in Context, 1555-1575, with Jessica Dell and David Klausner (Ashgate 2012); The Alchemist: A Critical Reader, with Erin Julian, for Arden Early Modern Drama (2013); and Performance as Research in Early Modern English Theatre: The Three Ladies of London in Context (McMaster University, 2015) http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/.  Her current new projects include an edition of The Merry Wives of Windsor for Internet Shakespeare Editions, The Dutch Courtesan for the Marston Complete Works (OUP), and Heywood and Brome’s The Late Lancashire Witches and Brome’s A Jovial Crew for OUP’s 4 volume set of Brome’s complete works, based on the digital Richard Brome Online (Sheffield: HRI online, 2009).

For the Oxford Marston she is co-editing The Dutch Courtesan with Erin Julian.

In this episode, I’ll be asking Helen about :

  • Was Ben Jonson Shakespeare's best friend?
  • What impact did Jonson's work have on William Shakespeare?
  • Why wasn’t Ben Jonson executed for any of his arrests?
    …and more!

Books Helen Recommends:

Some links provided here are affiliate links

Ben Jonson's Plays: The Commonplace Book (I could not find a link to this version specifically of Jonson's works. Please comment if you know where to find this version. I have listed a different version of a compilation of Jonson's plays and masques below.)
The New Cambridge Ben Jonson (his letters!) 2012
There is a digital archive of Jonson's works available online here. 
Everyman Out of His Humor (Jonson's most famous play)
The Magnetic Lady (Jonson's last play)
          99 cent digital version of this play available on Kindle here.

Books on Ben Jonson's Life and Works that are not recommended in this episode but deserve honorable mention nonetheless:

Ben Jonson: The Complete Masques by Ben Jonson and edited by Stephen Orgel.
Ben Jonson: A Life by Ian Donaldson

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