Study Guide

To the Memory of My Beloved Literature and Writing

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Literature and Writing

To draw no envy Shakespeare on thy name
Am I thus ample to thy Book and Fame (1-2)

An interesting cynical beginning to what becomes a poem chock full of compliments. Why do you think Jonson singles out Shakespeare's name from his book and fame?

My Shakespeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further, to make thee a room (19-21)

Jonson compares Shakespeare to Chaucer, Spenser, and Beaumont—the first three poets to have the honor of being buried in what would come to be known as Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. So, basically, Jonson thinks Ol' Shakey is kind of a Big Deal.

But call forth thund'ring Aeschelus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us
Pacuvius, Accius, his of Cordova dead
To life again, to hear thy Buskin tread (33-36)

If you could bring back any famous playwright from back in the day and watch their work performed as it was originally, who would you choose? While time travel may not be a viable option (yet… here's hoping), there are tons of theater companies dedicated to doing just that—check and see if one is near you.

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

Nationality in the way we think of it today was only just starting to emerge as a concept during Shakespeare and Jonson's time, and the arts were one of the things that helped fuel the growth of this concept in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

Who casts a living line, must sweat,
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the Muses' anvil […] (59-61)

A beautiful description of all the hard work that goes into making something sound effortless. If only we could all pull that off.

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