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The three plays collected in this volume depict the faults, errors and foibles of ordinary people with exuberant humour, savage satire and acute observations. Volpone portrays a rich Venetian who pretends to be dying so that his despised acquaintances will flock to his bedside with extravagant gifts in hope of an inheritance. The Alchemist also deals with greed and gullibility, as a rascally trio of confidence tricksters, claiming to have the legendary Philosopher's Stone, fool a series of victims who are hoping to make some easy money. And in a wonderfully energetic portrait of Jacobean life, Bartholomew Fair shows a diverse group of Londoners sampling the delights and temptations of the Fair - and the traders, prostitutes and cutpurses who set out to exploit them.
Ben Jonson was born in 1572, the posthumous son of a minister and was educated at Westminster School thanks to an unknown patron. In 1597, after brief careers as a bricklayer and soldier, he began to work for Henslowe's company as a player and playwright. In addition to the comedies Jonson also produced two tragedies. In 1616 he was granted a royal pension and was made, in effect, Poet Laureate. He died on 6 August 1637.Michael Jamieson has taught at the University of Rome and the University of California. He has published a study of As You Like It and articles on Elizabethan acting and on modern theatres for Shakespeare.