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Of the many obvious differences – century, genre, etc. – the most important one was “people oriented” vs. “information oriented.” But the similarity was their interest in lexicography – broadly, the expansion and solidification of the English language. Shakespeare’s interested manifested in neologisms; his dramatic dialogue contributed hundred of words to the English vocabulary. Johnson’s contribution, notably in his Dictionary, was to gather English words into a “lexicon” with definitions. Both authors saw the English language as an emerging, developing means of expression and communication in a rapidly expanding world – exploration, colonialization, trade, etc. – and sought to establish it as a widespread, if not universal, language. Today, any English dictionary owes its origins to Johnson, and any collection of English literature owes its center to Shakespeare. If English has become the most widely accepted language for international commerce, etc., it has many causes, but Johnson’s and Shakespeare’s contributions are at the top of the list.
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