Best quotes by Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson

English playwright and poet

Benjamin Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – c. 16 August 1637) was an English playwright and poet. Jonson's artistry exerted a lasting influence upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours; he is best known for the satirical plays Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone, or The Fox (c. 1606), The Alchemist (1610) and Bartholomew Fair (1614) and for his lyric and epigrammatic poetry. "He is generally regarded as the second most important English dramatist, after William Shakespeare, during the reign of James I."

Jonson was a classically educated, well-read and cultured man of the English Renaissance with an appetite for controversy (personal and political, artistic and intellectual) whose cultural influence was of unparalleled breadth upon the playwrights and the poets of the Jacobean era (1603–1625) and of the Caroline era (1625–1642). His ancestors spelled the family name with a letter "t" (Johstone or Johnstoun). While the spelling had eventually changed to the more common "Johnson", the playwright's own particular preference became "Jonson".

Ben Jonson quotes by category:

All CategoriesAbout happinessAbout natureAbout menAbout fearAbout mindAbout passion

MindPassionPassions are spiritual rebels and raise sedition against the understanding.

MenFearPassionO! How vain and vile a passion is this fear! What base uncomely things it makes men do.

HappinessTrue happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in the worth and choice.

FearFear to do base, unworthy things is valor; if they be one to us, to suffer them is valor too.

NatureMindMoney never made any man rich, but his mind. He that can order himself to the law of nature, is not only without the sense, but the fear of poverty.

FearThere is no greater hell than to be a prisoner of fear.

I have been at my book; and am now past the craggy paths of study, and come to the flowery plains of honour and reputation

I have no urns, no dusty monuments; No broken images of ancestors, Wanting an ear, or nose; no forged tales Of long descents, to boast false honors from.

Prevent your day at morning.

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, to make thee a 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 .

The covetous man never has money. The prodigal will have none shortly.

The day For whose returns, and many, all these pray; And so do I.

Whosoever loves not picture is injurious to truth, and all the wisdom of poetry. Picture is the invention of heaven, the most ancient and most akin to nature. It is itself a silent work, and always one and the same habit.

That praises are without reason lavished on the dead, and that the honours due only to are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be always continued by those who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope for eminence from the heresies of paradox; or those who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from posterity what the present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the regard which is yet denied by envy will be at last bestowed by time.

Poets are far rarer birds than kings.

I have discovered that a famed familiarity in great ones is a note of certain usurpation on the less; for great and popular men feign themselves to be servants to others to make those slaves to them.

Guilt's a terrible thing.

The two chief things that give a man reputation in counsel, are the opinion of his honesty, and the opinion of his wisdom; the authority of those two will persuade.

Nothing is a courtesy unless it be meant us, and that friendly and lovingly. We owe no thanks to rivers that they carry our boats, or winds that they be favoring and fill our sails, or meats that they be nourishing; for these are what they are necessarily. Horses carry us, trees shade us; but they know it not.

Aristotle was the first accurate critic and truest judge nay, the greatest philosopher the world ever had; for he noted the vices of all knowledges, in all creatures, and out of many men's perfections in a science he formed still one Art.

Where dost thou careless lie, Buried in ease and sloth? Knowledge that sleeps, doth die; And this security, It is the common moth, That eats on wits and arts, and oft destroys them both.

I now think, Love is rather deaf, than blind, For else it could not be, That she, Whom I adore so much, should so slight me, And cast my love behind.

Follow a shadow, it still flies you, Seem to fly, it will pursue: So court a mistress, she denies you; Let her alone, she will court you. Say are not women truly, then, Styled but the shadows of us men?

For he that once is good, is ever great.

Doing, a filthy pleasure is, and short; And done, we straight repent us of the sport: Let us not rush blindly on unto it, Like lustful beasts, that only know to do it: For lust will languish, and that heat decay, But thus, thus, keeping endless Holy-.

I am beholden to calumny, that she hath so endeavored to belie me.-It shall make me set a surer guard on myself, and keep a better watch upon my actions.

Freedom doth with degree dispense.

Whom hatred frights, let him not dream of sovereignty.

If all you boast of your great art be true; Sure, willing poverty lives most in you.

Success hath made me wanton.

[The play] is like to be a very conceited scurvy one, in plain English.

Custom is the most certain mistress of language, as the public stamp makes the current money.

Ambition, like a torrent, ne'er looks back; And is a swelling, and the last affection A high mind can put off; being both a rebel Unto the soul and reason, and enforceth All laws, all conscience, treads upon religion, and offereth violence to nature's self.

The man that is once hated, both his good and his evil deeds oppress him.

How Fortune piles her sports when she begins to practise them!

... the best pilots have need of mariners, besides sails, anchor and other tackle.

And where she went, the flowers took thickest root, As she had sow'd them with her odorous foot.

In small proportions we just beauties see; And in short measures, life may perfect be.

I would rather have a plain down-right wisdom than a foolish and affected eloquence.

Nor use too swelling, or ill-sounded words . . . .

Forbear, you things That stand upon the pinnacles of state, To boast your slippery height! when you do fall, You dash yourselves in pieces, ne'er to rise: And he that lends you pity, is not wise.

Indeed there's a woundy luck in names.

Soul of the age! The applause! delight! The wonder of our stage!

To men pressed by their wants all change is ever welcome.

Though I am young, and cannot tell Either what Death or Love is well, Yet I have heard they both bear darts, And both do aim at human hearts. And then again, I have been told Love wounds with heat, as Death with cold; So that I fear they do but bring Extremes to touch, and mean one thing. As in a ruin we it call One thing to be blown up, or fall; Or to our end like way may have By a flash of lightning, or a wave; So Love’s inflamèd shaft or brand May kill as soon as Death’s cold hand; Except Love’s fires the virtue have To fight the frost out of the grave.

Very few men are wise by their own council, or learned by their own teaching. For he that was only taught by himself, had a fool for a master.

If you succeed not, cast not away the quills yet, nor scratch the wainscot, beat not the poor desk, but bring all to the forge and file again; turn it new.

I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground Upon my flesh t'inflict another wound. Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death With holy Paul; lest it be thought the breath Of discontent; or that these prayers be For weariness of life, not love of thee.

Minds that are great and free, should not on fortune pause: 'Tis crown enough to virtue still, her own applause.

As it is a great point of art, when our matter requires it, to enlarge and veer out all sail, so to take it in and contract it is of no less praise when the argument doth ask it.

God wisheth none should wreck on a strange shelf: To him man's dearer than to himself.

It is as great a spite to be praised in the wrong place, and by a wrong person, as can be done to a noble nature.

Now we are all fallen, youth from their fear, And age from that which bred it, good example.

Your highest female grace is silence.

I'll give anything for a good copy now, be it true or false, so it be news.

How ready is heaven to those that pray!

No glass renders a man's form or likeness so true as his speech.

Where it concerns himself, Who's angry at a slander, makes it true.

True melancholy breeds your perfect fine wit.

Cut Men's throats with whisperings.

Reader look, not on his picture but his book.

Cares that have entered once in the breast, will have whole possession of the rest.

The burnt child dreads the fire.

Tis the common disease of all your musicians that they know no mean, to be entreated, either to begin or end.

A new disease? I know not, new or old, but it may well be called poor mortals plague for, like a pestilence, it doth infect the houses of the brain till not a thought, or motion, in the mind, be free from the black poison of suspect.

Hang sorrow, care'll kill a cat.

All the wise world is little else, in nature, But parasites or subparasites.

Greatness of name, in the father, ofttimes helps not forth, but overwhelms the son: They stand too near one another. The shadow kills the growth.

Blueness doth express trueness.

Spread yourself upon his bosom publicly, whose heart you would eat in private.

I glory, more in the cunning purchase of my wealth than in the glad possession.

Men that talk of their own benefits are not believed to talk of them because they have done them, but to have done them because they might talk of them.

Fortune, thou hadst no deity, if men Had wisdom.

There is no doctrine will do good where nature is wanting.

If you be sick, your own thoughts make you sick