Shakespeare was considered to be a natural, untutored genius, despite the evidence that he read extensively for each play, took pains over rewriting and revised the text in rehearsal - which is evident from comparing Quarto versions of plays with those printed in the Folio. Ben Jonson described Shakespeare as an unlearned but naturally gifted writer.
ALTHOUGH IT IS CLEAR THAT HE KNEW TOO THAT SHAKESPEARE LABOURED OVER HIS LINES, POLISHING THEM. BUT LITERATURE IN OUR DAY WAS EXPECTED TO BE A LIVELY TURNING OF FAMILIAR MATERIAL, RATHER THAN SIMPLY ORIGINAL IDEAS.
Jonson praised Shakespeare for precisely this labour in his eulogy …
For though the Poets matter, Nature be,
His art doth giue the fashion. And, that he,
Who casts to write a liuing line, must sweat,
(such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Vpon the Muses anuile: turne the same,
(And himselfe with it) that he thinkes to frame;
Or for the lawrell, he may gaine a scorne …
FOR A GOOD POET’S MADE, AS WELL AS BORN. AND SUCH WERT THOU. WE CAN AGREE THAT SHAKESPEARE DID GIVE A “LIVELY TURN” TO FAMILIAR MATERIAL…