“Soul of the Age! The applause! Delight! The Wonder of our Stage”
“He was not of an age but for all times.”
Ben Jonson, Dedicatory Poem for the first edition of Shakespeare’s plays (1623)
This is quite a tribute for a playwright who began his London career as a mere actor and whose earliest printed plays did not acknowledge him as their author. Recently the critic James Pearce praised Shakespeare as writing with “unsurpassed beauty about things that unite humanity across all ages and cultures.” We will seek to discover the culture (historic, religious, literary) that enabled Shakespeare to garner Jonson’s praise in his own time, and we will test Pearce’s assertions with our reading of and research into Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.