Perkins is a professor of American and English literature and film. In this essay, she examines Jonson's craftsmanship and the way he reworked borrowed material in the poem.
In "Jonson's Poetry, Prose and Criticism," J. B. Bamborough writes that while Jonson placed a high value on poetry, he regarded it as "essentially an Art, rather than as the expression of personality or a way of conveying a unique perception of Truth. Skill was the quality most inescapably demanded of the poet." Bamborough says that Jonson makes this point when he writes "For to Nature, Exercise. Imitation, and Studie, Art must be added, to make all these perfect." Jonson's neoclassical position states that writing well necessitates first mastering the subject and then examining how other writers have expressed it. Thus, according to Bamborough, "Originality and Inspiration, as the Romantics understood them, do not, or need not, enter into this."
Jonson's policy of studying other writers' work led him to incorporate some of that work into his own. G. A. E. Parfitt, in "The Nature of Translation in Ben Jonson's Poetry," notes that Jonson's practice of borrowing material from other sources and incorporating it into his own work was "not theoretically a departure from ordinary renaissance principles: it conformed to standard educational doctrine and, viewed broadly, it is an activity similar to that of many other authors of the period." Parfitt states that "only...
(The entire section is 1540 words.)
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