Fun Facts Friday: The Indictment of Playwright Ben Johnson

On this day in 1598 Ben Johnson, an English playwright, was indicted for manslaughter. Mr. Johnson was a bona fide celebrity in 17th Century England, being admired by writers and socialites.

1)      Ben Johnson was educated at the Westminster school by excellent teachers and scholars.

2)      Mr. Johnson’s father was a master bricklayer, a good occupation. Ben tried to follow his father’s footsteps but jointed the army.

3)      As a soldier, in Flanders, Ben Johnson killed a man in single combat.

4)      By 1594 Ben Johnson was back in England acting and writing plays.

5)      In 1598 he had a dual with another actor and killed him. Ben Johnson was arrested.

6)      The playwright was almost hanged, but because he could read and write he claimed “benefit of clergy”, which got him a more lenient sentence.

7)      Mr. Johnson was jailed two more times, but for his writing. It didn’t help that he converted to Catholicism which made him suspicious.

8)      Nevertheless, Mr. Johnson became a successful playwright.

9)      The 1598 comedy, Every Man in His Humor, featured a young friend, named William Shakespeare in a major role (at the time Johnson and Shakespeare were equally famous).

10)   Mr. Johnson was so admired that young writers called themselves “sons of Ben”.

Zohar — Man of la Book
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