To matter forever

Do you unconsciously believe that Shakespeare was an objectively better playwright than his two main rivals, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson? If so, have no fear—as far as the world is concerned, he was. If you want to prove that he was, all you need to do is go through the texts of their respective plays and find the passages that validate the opinion most of the world already accepts. It will not be difficult, and it will feel like the differences you locate are a manifestation of merit. But you will actually be enforcing a tautology: Shakespeare is better than Marlowe and Jonson because Shakespeare is more like Shakespeare, which is how we delineate greatness within playwriting. All three men were talented. All three had enough merit to become the historical equivalent of Shakespearean, had history unspooled differently. But it didn’t. It unspooled the way we understand it, and Shakespeare had almost nothing to do with that. He is remembered in a way that Marlowe and Jonson are not, particularly by those who haven’t really thought about any of these guys, ever.

To matter forever, you need to matter to those who don’t care. And if that strikes you as sad, be sad.

— Chuck Klosterman