Study Guide

To the Memory of My Beloved Admiration

By Ben Jonson

Admiration

While I confess thy writings to be such
As neither Man, nor Muse, can praise too much (3-4)

In classical culture, the Muses were not only the goddesses of the arts, they were also said to inspire them. There's something uncharacteristically poetic for Jonson about the idea that the very inspiration of great literature cannot give Shakespeare enough praise.

I therefore will begin. Soul of the Age!
The applause! Delight! The wonder of our Stage! (17-18)

The BIG IDEAS we credit Shakespeare's plays with containing were not the main reason he was famous or popular back in the 1600s. Instead, Shakespeare was known more for how he wrote than the stories he told. Jonson's tribute to him here, though, as the "soul of the age" implies that perhaps those universal truths were not lost on Shakespeare's early modern audience after all.

And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek
From thence to honor thee, not seek
For names […] (31-33)

It's hard to tell whether Jonson is praising Shakespeare for doing well in spite of not having a classical education or whether he is poking fun at him for being, shall we say, not the brightest crayon in the box compared to his literary contemporaries.

Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe (41-42)

It's hard to judge the extent to which Shakespeare's plays made it overseas, but clearly Jonson thinks that an international audience would appreciate their greatness. There's yet another testimony to the power of Shakespeare's storytelling in addition to his use of language.

He was not of an age, but for all time (43)

Most epic-sounding compliment of all time.

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