Johnson’s Preface to Shakespeare
Samuel Johnson in his “Preface to Shakespeare” highlights several qualities and defects in Shakespeare’s plays whether they are comedies or tragedies. Samuel Johnson’s preface got enough fame due to the points that he raised in his writing. However, while highlighting the defects and qualities of Shakespeare’s work, Johnson, sometimes contradicts his own views.
Samuel Johnson, a well-known figure of late Augustan age is considered superb for his critical preface, Preface to Shakespeare by most critics. Harold Bloom defines “Johnson’s vitality as a critic” as “always sufficiently inside Shakespeare’s plays to judge them as he judges human life, without ever forgetting that Shakespeare’s function is to bring life to mind”. In his preface, Johnson identifies several strengths and imperfections in Shakespeare’s capabilities of writing.
Shakespeare develops his argument in considering Shakespeare and his works as antique. He used the word “antique” as referential. He argues that something written a long time ago, must have been discussed a lot and if it is still admired, it contains some established qualities because it has gone through a phase of testing, checking and comparing.
Strengths of Shakespeare’s Plays According to Johnson
Shakespeare was an established authority by the time of Johnson. According to Johnson, “Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature”. By nature, Johnson means the observation of reality. Johnson says that Shakespeare had the ability to provide a ‘just representation of general nature’. Here, Johnson presents the idea of universality. David Daiches reports that Dr. Johnson appreciates Shakespeare because he, according to Dryden’s requirement of a just and lively image of human nature, fulfils it. He further explains that Shakespeare as a dramatist is praised because he does what is expected from a dramatist. Shakespeare’s writings have a main theme of good...