In Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, histories & tragedies, published according to the true originall copies.
London: printed by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount, 1623
Ben Jonson wrote this elegy for his friend and sometime rival to stand at the front of the first collected works of Shakespeare. The poem is a tour de force for the genre, offering both heartfelt and hyperbolic praise of the departed poet, whom he places among the stars to guide future writers. We include it in this exhibit because Jonson addresses Shakespeare directly as a “character” in several places, as here:
Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive still while thy book doth live
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
It is this poem that gives us so many apt epithets for Shakespeare including: “Soul of the age!”; “the wonder of our stage!”; “Sweet Swan of Avon!”; and “He was not of an age but for all time!”