Dr. Johnson’s Criticism of Shakespeare Essay

Samuel Johnson ( 1709-1784 ) . a showy and various bookman. expresses his position of Shakespeare in his edition of Shakespeare’s dramas which are enriched by his forewords. But like other critics he does non eulogise the poet ; on the contrary. he dwells on the mistakes in his dramas. He shows a really balanced and indifferent head capable of judging the virtues and demerits of his dramas without being influenced by the hallow consequence. He reads neither to look up to everything. nor does he belie his excellence ; he performs the undertaking of weighing and sing what he reads and offers his remarks which have a moral prejudice. In “The Preface to Shakespeare” he admires him as “the poet of nature. non of larning ; the Godhead of characters who spring to life ; and a author whose plants express the full scope of human passions” ( Norton. 1255 )

His judgement of Shakespeare has both the positive and the negative facets and he does non indulge in “bardolatry” like other critics. He believes that dead authors are unnecessarily glorified and the life 1s are neglected. He justly says. “The great contention of unfavorable judgment is to happen the mistakes of the moderns and the beauties of the ancients. ” ( Norton. 1256 ) He besides advocates the critical theory that an writer can be evaluated merely by comparing his plants with others. “so in the production of mastermind. nil can be styled first-class boulder clay it has been compared with other plants of the same sort. ” ( Norton. 1256 ) He besides upholds the position that a literary work can be called great merely when it has stood the trial of clip.

He thinks. “Shakespeare is. above all authors. at least above all modern authors. the poet of nature. the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life. ” ( Norton. 1257 ) It is hard to excel this succinct summing up of Shakespeare’s mastermind. But Johnson disparages the noncritical credence of Shakespeare as perfect ; he points out his mistakes every bit good. without sabotaging his mastermind.

Johnson praises Shakespeare’s art of word picture foregrounding their assortment. deepness. credibleness and the power of pleasing his readers. Using his comparative method. he observes. “they are the echt offspring of common humanity …In the Hagiographas of other poets a character is excessively frequently an single: in those of Shakespeare it is normally a species. ” ( Norton. 1257 ) The characters and the state of affairss are so impressive because “Shakespeare has no heroes. his scenes are occupied merely by work forces. who act and speak as the reader thinks that he should himself hold spoken or acted on the same juncture ; ” ( Norton. 1258 ) This culminates in his position. “his play is the mirror of life. ” ( Norton. 1258 )

Bing a truster in didactic map of literature. he appreciates how his dramas are full of “practical maxims and domestic wisdom” ( Norton. 1257 ) but for the same ground he criticizes him when it is absent. “He forfeits virtue to convenience. and is so much more careful to delight than to teach that he seems to compose without any moral intent. ” ( Norton. 1259 ) It is clear that he does non believe in “art for art’s sake” like Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater. Johnson in vain castigates Shakespeare for non being a moralist. “he that thinks moderately. must believe morally. but his principles and maxims bead casually from him ; he makes no merely distribution of good or evil…” ( Norton. 1259 )


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