Sejanus His Fall

Sejanus His Fall

Sejanus His Fall, a 1603 play by Ben Jonson, is a tragedy about Lucius Aelius Seianus, the favorite of the Roman emperor Tiberius. It was possibly an allegory of James I and his corrupt court.

The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on Nov. 2, 1604, and published in quarto in 1605 by the bookseller Thomas Thorpe (printing by George Eld). The text is preceded by commendatory verses from George Chapman and John Marston, among others, as well as an Epistle, in which Jonson states that the printed text is not the same as the version acted on stage two years previously by the King's Men. That earlier version combined the Jonson's writing with that of "a second pen," and Jonson had revised the play to remove the collaborator's contribution.

I would inform you, that this book, in all numbers, is not the same with that which was acted on the public stage; wherein a second: pen had good share: in place of which, I have rather chosen to put weaker, and no doubt, less pleasing, of mine own, than to defraud so happy a genius of his right by my loathed usurpation.

Jonson's reference to "happy" "genius" have led some to speculate that Shakespeare was Jonson's co-author on the original version of "Sejanus" — which has not survived.

William Shakespeare was certainly connected with the play — as an actor. An end note in the Folio text (1616) lists the cast of the 1603 production, in this order: Richard Burbage, Shakespeare, Augustine Phillips, John Heminges, William Sly, Henry Condell, John Lowin, and Alexander Cooke.

The 1616 text also features Jonson's Epistle to Lord Aubigny, in which the dramatist indicates that "Sejanus" was a flop when acted at the Globe Theatre. In the winter of 1618–19 Jonson told William Drummond of Hawthornden that the Earl of Northampton was his "mortal enemy" because Jonson had beaten one of the Earl's servants, and that Northampton had had Jonson called before the Privy Council on an accusation of "Popery and treason," based on "Sejanus." [Chambers, Vol. 3, p. 367.]



*Chambers, E. K. "The Elizabethan Stage." 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923.
*Halliday, F. E. "A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964." Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.

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