Monday, March 07, 2011

Unfair Advantage

I finished reading a couple of plays from Shakespeare's time, by competing playwrights:

A Woman Killed With Kindness, by Thomas Heywood, a domestic tragedy about adultery.

The Alchemist, by Ben Jonson, a caustic comedy about con-men.

They are both written in iambic pentameter, occasionally rhymed, similar to Shakespeare that way. But somehow the poetry seemed to lack his punch. Which is interesting, because Jonson was certainly capable of writing powerful poetry.

There's a joke that Shakespeare had an advantage over other writers, in that he coined lots of great quotations early, before other writers had a chance to think of them. But these people had the same chance he did.

It wasn't that he was first,
but rather that he burst
onto the play-writing scene
like a phrase-coining machine.

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