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Sejanus: His Fall   By: (1573-1637)

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Sejanus: His Fall by Ben Jonson takes us on a gripping journey through the treacherous world of ancient Rome, unraveling a story of power, ambition, and the destructive consequences they can bring.

Set during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, the play centers around the rise and fall of Sejanus, a trusted advisor to the Emperor. Dedicated to examining the perils of corruption and the insatiable hunger for authority, Jonson masterfully weaves together a tale that explores the depths of human nature and the folly of blind ambition.

What makes Sejanus: His Fall truly captivating is Jonson's exceptional ability to create intricate and multidimensional characters. Sejanus himself serves as a fascinating study of ambition gone wrong. From his initial appearance as a loyal confidant to Tiberius, we witness his transformation into a cunning schemer, willing to do whatever it takes to attain ultimate power. His descent into madness is both tragic and unsettling, leaving the audience questioning mankind's ability to resist the allure of control.

Equally engaging are the numerous secondary characters that populate the play. Each one is meticulously crafted and serves a purpose in illustrating the intricate web of political machinations. From Livia, Tiberius' scheming mother, to Macro, Sejanus' treacherous accomplice, their actions and motivations are revealed with precision, adding layers of complexity to the overall narrative.

Beyond its exploration of power dynamics, Sejanus: His Fall delves into the theme of truth and deception. Jonson masterfully highlights the dangers of living in a society where lies become the norm and illusion reigns supreme. The play serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the fragility of truth and the repercussions of living in a world saturated with falsehoods.

Though Sejanus: His Fall may at times feel dense and overwhelming due to its extensive cast of characters and complex political intrigue, Jonson's lyricism and sharp wit provide moments of respite. His mastery of language shines through, offering beautifully crafted dialogue and plenty of memorable lines that leave a lasting impact.

In conclusion, Sejanus: His Fall is a compelling work of historical drama that invites readers to reflect on the darker aspects of human nature. Jonson's skillful storytelling and nuanced character development make this play a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the complexities of power, ambition, and the consequences they can bring. Prepare to be transported to ancient Rome and witness the tragic downfall of Sejanus, a cautionary tale that resonates across the ages.

First Page:


By Ben Jonson

Transcriber's note: This play is based on events that happened a millennium and a half before Jonson wrote it. Jonson added 247 scholarly footnotes to this play; all were in Latin (except for a scattering of Greek). They, and the Greek quotation which forms Tiberius Caesar's tag line in Scene II, Act II, have been elided.


THE greatest of English dramatists except Shakespeare, the first literary dictator and poet laureate, a writer of verse, prose, satire, and criticism who most potently of all the men of his time affected the subsequent course of English letters: such was Ben Jonson, and as such his strong personality assumes an interest to us almost unparalleled, at least in his age.

Ben Jonson came of the stock that was centuries after to give to the world Thomas Carlyle; for Jonson's grandfather was of Annandale, over the Solway, whence he migrated to England. Jonson's father lost his estate under Queen Mary, "having been cast into prison and forfeited." He entered the church, but died a month before his illustrious son was born, leaving his widow and child in poverty. Jonson's birthplace was Westminster, and the time of his birth early in 1573. He was thus nearly ten years Shakespeare's junior, and less well off, if a trifle better born... Continue reading book >>

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