On Shakespeare

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For works with similar titles, see On Shakespear.
On Shakespeare
by Ben Jonson
De Shakespeare Nostrat[1]

I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, “Would he had blotted a thousand,” which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this but for their ignorance, who chose that circumstance to commend their friend by wherein he most faulted; and to justify mine own candor, for I loved the man, and do honor his memory on this side idolatry as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility that sometime it was necessary he should be stopped. “Sufflaminandus erat,”[2] as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter, as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him: “Cæsar, thou dost me wrong.” He replied: “Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause;[3] and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his vices with his virtues. There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. “Of our countryman, Shakespeare.”
  2. “He should have been clogged.”
  3. The speech is not found in this form in our version of Shakespeare’s “Julius Cæsar.”
This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.