The debate between art and nature was huge in Shakespeare and Jonson's day. And it's easy to see why. The disparity between socioeconomic classes in the 1600s was massive, and so it was only natural that people would desperately want to understand why other people were more talented and more successful than they were. In an author's case, it might be a matter of understanding why someone's work was more popular than yours, but whatever the reason, Jonson seems very obviously preoccupied with just how hard Shakespeare had to try to achieve his fame and renown in "To the Memory of My Beloved."
Questions About Art and Culture
What is the difference between nature and art as it was interpreted in the 1600s?
What does it mean when Jonson writes that "Nature herself was proud of his designs"? How does this passage tie in to ye olde art versus nature debate?
Is a piece of literature more impressive if it comes from a natural gift? Or does the author command more respect for paying careful attention to his work? What do you think Jonson believes?
Chew on This
Jonson has equal respect for natural as well as nurtured talents for poetry.
Jonson believed Shakespeare's work was more the result of a natural gift than it was of any skill or craft.