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Gunpowder, treason and Jonson

As you enjoy the 400th anniversary of the gunpowder plot this November, spare a thought for Ben Jonson, who, Prospect can reveal, was arrested after Guy Fawkes's capture and forced to prove his loyalty

By Rosalind Miles   November 2005

When terror strikes, panic, confusion and the urgent need for information follow, whether the threat occurs in 1605 or 2005. When the gunpowder plot burst upon the consciousness of the authorities 400 years ago, they were caught napping, and the frantic search for new sources produced an unlikely result. Shakespeare’s great contemporary and friend, the actor, poet and playwright Ben Jonson, was dragged into the gunpowder plot, and employed by the government in the aftermath.


In Jonson’s day, theatre and politics were closely intertwined, as we know from the life and murky death of Shakespeare’s other famous contemporary Christopher…

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