Article Title

Jonson's Copy of Seneca


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Ben Jonson has been called "one of the most Senecan of English writers in style and often in temper,"1 and his numerous allusions to Seneca's writings certainly confirm this claim. The standard edition of Jonson's works records scores of echoes from passages in Seneca.2 The English poet had obviously read and appreciated many writings by the Roman moralist in a wide variety of genres, including plays, epistles, and essays. In fact, even the motto Jonson usually inscribed in copies of books he owned - "tanquam explorator" - derives from an epistle by Seneca.3 Thus the very motives that guided Jonson's reading were informed by Senecan example. We know that Jonson had access to Seneca's dramatic works in a comprehensive anthology devotes to classical Latin poets, and he probably also read Seneca's works in other collections presently lost or unknown.4 Surprisingly, however, his ownership of a volume devoted exclusively to Seneca's writings is not reported in any of the standard descriptions of his library.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.