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SHAKESPEARE
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[ Also see Acting Authors Authorship Plagiarism Poetry Poets Quotations Stage Theatre ]

I remember, the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never plotted out a line. My answer hath been, would he had blotted a thousand.
      - Ben Jonson,
        Discoveries--De Shakespeare nostrat

This figure that thou here seest put,
  It was for gentle Shakespeare cut,
    Wherein the graver had a strife
      With Nature, to outdo the life:
        Oh, could he but have drawn his wit
          As well in brass, as he has hit
            His face, the print would then surpass
              All that was ever writ in brass;
                But since he cannot, reader, look
                  Not on his picture, but his book.
      - Ben Jonson,
        Lines on a Picture of Shakespeare

For a good poet's made, as well as born,
  And such wast thou! Look how the father's face
    Lives in his issue; even so the race
      Of Shakespeare's mind and manner brightly shine
        In his well-turned and true-filed lines;
          In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
            As brandished at the eyes of ignorance.
      - Ben Jonson,
        Lines to the Memory of Shakespeare

He was not of an age, but for all time!
  And all the Muses still were in their prime,
    When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
      Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm!
      - Ben Jonson,
        Lines to the Memory of Shakespeare

Nature herself was proud of his designs,
  And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines!
    Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
      As since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
      - Ben Jonson,
        Lines to the Memory of Shakespeare

Soul of the Age!
  The applause! delight! the wonder of our stage!
    My Shakespeare rise! I will not lodge thee by
      Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
        A little further off, to make thee room:
          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.
      - Ben Jonson,
        Lines to the Memory of Shakespeare

Sweet Swan of Avon! What a sight it were
  To see thee in our water yet appear.
      - Ben Jonson,
        Lines to the Memory of Shakespeare

Thou hadst small Latin and less Greek.
      - Ben Jonson,
        Lines to the Memory of Shakespeare

The genius of Shakespeare was an innate university.
      - John Keats (1)

Vast objects of remote altitude must be looked at a long while before they are ascertained. Ages are the telescope tubes that must be lengthened out for Shakespeare; and generations of men serve but a single witness to his claims.
      - Walter Savage Landor

Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world's,
  Therefore on him so speech!
      - Walter Savage Landor, To Robert Browning
         (l. 5)

If he had sorrows, he has made them the woof of everlasting consolation to his kind; and if, as poets are wont to whine, the outward world was cold to him, its biting air did but trace itself in loveliest frostwork of fancy on the many windows of that self-centred and cheerful soul.
      - James Russell Lowell

Admirable as he was in all parts of his art, we most admire him for this, that while he has left us a greater number of striking portraits than all other dramatists put together, he has scarcely left us a single caricature.
      - Thomas Babington Macaulay

Highest among those who have exhibited human nature by means of dialogue stands Shakespeare. His variety is like the variety of nature,--endless diversity, scarcely any monstrosity.
      - Thomas Babington Macaulay

If ever Shakespeare rants, it is not when his imagination is hurrying him along, but when he is hurrying his imagination along.
      - Thomas Babington Macaulay

In the plays of Shakespeare man appears as he is, made up of a crowd of passions which contend for the mastery over him, and govern him in turn.
      - Thomas Babington Macaulay

Shakespeare has had neither equal nor second.
      - Thomas Babington Macaulay

Shakespeare's personages live and move as if they had just come from the hand of God, with a life that, though manifold, is one, and, though complex, is harmonious.
      - Giuseppe Mazzini

Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child!
      - John Milton

What needs my Shakespeare for his honored bones
  The labors of an age in piled stones?
    Or that his hallowed reliques should be hid
      Under a starre-y-pointing pyramid?
        Dear son of Memory, great heir of fame,
          What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
            Thou in our wonder and astonishment
              Hath built thyself a livelong monument.
      - John Milton, An Epitaph

Then to the well-trod stage anon
  If Jonson's learned sock be on,
    Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
      Warble his native wood-notes wild.
      - John Milton, L'Allegro (l. 131)

We are apt to consider Shakespeare only as a poet; but he was certainly one of the greatest moral philosophers that ever lived.
      - Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

People take England on trust, and repeat that Shakespeare is the greatest of all authors. I have read him: there is nothing that compares Racine or Corneille: his plays are unreadable, pitiful.
      - Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon I),
        in "The Coriscan," edited by R.M. Johnston

It is not so correct to say that he speaks from nature as that she speaks through him.
      - Alexander Pope

Shakespeare (whom you and every play-house bill
  Style the divine, the matchless, what you will)
    For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight
      And grew immortal in his own despite.
      - Alexander Pope


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