Study Guide

To the Memory of My Beloved Admiration

By Ben Jonson

Admiration

Shmoop has whiled away a fair few hours riddling out some of the complexities of the relationship between Shakespeare and Jonson in this learning guide, but we don't want to make you think that admiration, pure and simple, wasn't at the heart of Jonson's motivation for writing "To the Memory of My Beloved." Regardless of what Jonson may have said about Shakespeare before he died (and he said some less-than-nice things), he wanted to go on record, at least publicly, as a fan of his work. Shakespeare is his beloved, after all.

Questions About Admiration

  1. In a poem that very clearly demonstrates a lot of admiration and respect for Shakespeare, what do you make of the opening lines? Why would Jonson think that praising Shakespeare would somehow do him harm?
  2. Flatterers wanted: what do you think is the greatest compliment Jonson pays to Shakespeare in this poem?
  3. What literary devices does Jonson use to communicate his admiration of Shakespeare? Are some more effective than others? Why or why not?
  4. Why didn't Jonson write this poem? What do you think his ultimate reason for writing this puppy actually was?

Chew on This

Jonson didn't actually like Shakespeare the man. He writes the poem because he likes Shakespeare's plays, not because he thought Shakespeare himself was anything to write home about.

Jonson compliments Shakespeare on several things, but there is a distinct impression given that while these things were fine and dandy for Shakespeare, Jonson is not-so-secretly glad they are not true of his own life and work.

Jonson is exaggerating his praise of Shakespeare and being disingenuous. The inflated praise is actually ironic, and should be interpreted as overly-fawning and facetious.

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