Internet Shakespeare Editions


Roger Ascham

The title page to Ascham's book, Toxophilus, on archery. Reproduced in Social England, ed. H.D.Traill. University of Victoria Library.

Roger Ascham (1515-1568) was one of the most likeable of the early humanists. He was Queen Elizabeth's tutor, and is best known for his enlightened book on education, The Schoolmaster.

Ascham's style is formal, without being oppressively elaborate-- certainly less intricate than the prose of his most famous pupil.

On "quick wits"

In an early work on the love of archery, Toxophilus, Ascham has some wise comments on wit, of particular appropriateness to many of Shakespeare's young lovers:

Quick wits commonly be apt to take, unapt to keep; soon hot and desirous of this and that; as cold and soon weary of the same again; more quick to enter speedily than able to pierce far; even like oversharp tools, whose edges be very soon turned. . .

And therefore the quick wits commonly may prove the best poets but not the wisest orators; ready of tongue to speak boldly, not deep of judgment either for good counsel or wise writing. Also, for manners and life, quick wits commonly be, in desire, newfangle*, in purpose, unconstant; light to promise anything, ready to forget everything, both benefit and injury; and thereby neither fast [faithful] to friend nor fearful of foe. . . of nature also always flattering their betters, envying their equals, despising their inferiors; and, by quickness of wit, very quick and ready to like none so well as themselves.

The Renascence Editions site includes Roger Ascham's "The Scholemaster" (books 1-2).


  1. "Newfangle"?

    Interested in new or fashionable ideas for their own sake rather than for any value they may have.