"Synonymous with metaphysical poetry, John Donne combined wit with passion, startling diction with curious contrasts. This program chronicles his extraordinary life as lawyer, lover, sailor, father, preacher, and poet. Manuscripts and paintings are combined with readings from many of Donne’s most famous writings, including “The Flea,” “Elegy XX,” “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” “The Calm,” “Progress of the Soul,” “Holy Sonnet XVII,” “Meditation XVII,” and “Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness.”
"For Columbia University’s Simon Schama, John Donne is the poet who transformed English verse through a raw emotional honesty coupled with a virtuosic skill with language. Drawing upon the observations of John Carey, literary critic and author of John Donne: Life, Mind, and Art, and insightful readings by actress Fiona Shaw, Schama undertakes a passionate appraisal of Donne’s work. Simon Schama’s John Donne vividly brings to life the brilliant and ambitious poet, his ardent writings, and his turbulent times. “To His Mistress Going to Bed,” “The Canonization,” “The Good-Morrow,” and “Holy Sonnet XIV” are given particular attention. A BBC Production."
"As arrogant and brash as he was talented and innovative, Ben Jonson lived a life as rife with drama as any of his many plays. He was jailed more than once for staging dramas that satirized the powers that be, and nearly had his ears and nose mutilated after collaborating on a play that lampooned King James I. Friend and colleague of Shakespeare, he is considered by many to have been the first poet laureate of England. This program examines how Jonson’s poetry, masques, and plays brought a level of humor, intellect, and formal discipline to English letters that had rarely been seen before. Excerpts from The Alchemist; Every Man in His Humor; Volpone, or the Fox; and Jonson’s poetry are included."