1 Answer | Add Yours
Actually, Samuel Johnson’s 1765 Preface to Shakespeare fits into a tradition of presenting Shakespeare’s plays in modernized or more accessible versions. Treatises by John Locke, David Hume and Edmund Burke were extant at the time Johnson produced his edition of the Bard; these earlier critics established a working definition of a "common sense," which describes universal experience. So Johnson was adhering to an established rubric that assessed literature in "reasonable" terms.Johnson’s Preface echoes many neo-classical sentiments, especially in his application of mimetic values, and in his axiom that “nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of human nature.” Johnson also states that “it is always a writer’s duty to make the world better, and justice is a virtue independent on time or place.” He notes that Shakespeare’s plays follow Horace's miscuit utile dulce: “The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing.” Most audiences expected and enjoyed this principle. to Johnson, Shakespeare does have several faults that do not meet Enlightenment moral standards: “He sacrifices virtue to convenience, and is so much more careful to please than to instruct, that he seems to write without any moral purpose.” “To the unities of time and place he has shown no regard.” In other words, Shakespeare played too loose with classical precepts, and thus could not appeal to the "common sense" of readers of Johnson's day.
We’ve answered 301,108 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question