Study Guide

To the Memory of My Beloved Literature and Writing

By Ben Jonson

Literature and Writing

In a poem written by a famous author, about another famous author that cites about fifteen other famous authors, you better believe that literature and writing are important. In "To the Memory of My Beloved," Jonson praises Shakespeare for his ability to tap into the spirit of the age, and illustrates how an author's work can keep his legacy alive even after he's gone. Remember, this poem is dedicated both to Shakespeare and to "what he hath left us," a.k.a. his plays and poems.

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. What do you make of Jonson's multiple references to Greek and Roman playwrights? How does his little jab that Shakespeare had "small Latin and less Greek" change your opinion of the allusions?
  2. Jonson compares several famous authors to Shakespeare, but there are lots of equally famous people whom he neglected to mention. Why do you think he chose the ones he did?
  3. Do you agree with Jonson that Shakespeare "was not of an age, but for all time"?

Chew on This

Jonson praises Shakespeare's insight into popular thought and the human experience, but at the end of the day, he thinks his writing kind of blows.

Jonson purposefully didn't name himself among Shakespeare's contemporaries because, although he respected Shakespeare's work, he believed himself to be the better author. Are we the only ones who want to see these two in a rap battle?

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