Study Guide

To the Memory of My Beloved Immortality

By Ben Jonson

Immortality

"To the Memory of My Beloved" isn't really focused on death, which is weird for an elegy. Instead, Jonson devotes a lot of time and energy to talking about how to keep an author who has died alive—so to speak—for future generations. He raises interesting questions about the best way to honor and memorialize a great writer and whether or not authors, who he claims live on in their work, can ever really die. Cue creepy ghost noises here.

Questions About Immortality

  1. For a poem that doesn't really talk about death, this lyric includes an awful lot of grave/tomb imagery. Why do you think this is?
  2. Do you agree with Jonson's statement that Shakespeare remains alive as long as his works continue to be read? Why or why not?
  3. How might Jonson's opinion on the power of books to keep an author's legacy alive alter your interpretation of this poem, particularly given its placement in the front of the First Folio?
  4. How central is fame to Shakespeare's legacy?

Chew on This

The First Folio, the book that will keep Shakespeare's legacy alive, is the "monument without a tomb" that Jonson speaks of in line 23.

Books do not immortalize their authors as Jonson claims; he is only saying that because he is an author himself.

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