Preface to Shakespeare Questions and Answers
by Samuel Johnson

Start Your Free Trial

According to Samuel Johnson, why is comedy is valued over tragedy in "Preface to Shakespeare"?  

Expert Answers info

David Alberts, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor, Professional Writer

bookB.A. from Kent State University

bookM.A. from West Virginia State University

bookPh.D. from Bowling Green State University


calendarEducator since 2019

write796 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

The question is not so much if comedy is valued over tragedy in Samuel Johnson's "Preface to Shakespeare"—Johnson makes no value judgement between and tragedy—but in what ways did Johnson believe that Shakespeare was a better writer of comedic scenes than of tragic scenes.

Johnson makes no distinction between Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies.

Shakespeare's plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the real state of sublunary [down to earth] nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and innumerable modes of combination . . .

Johnson notes that in the works of the ancient Greek and Roman playwrights there were only two types of plays—comedies and tragedies—and each type of play was clearly distinct from the other, "according to the laws which custom had prescribed . . . and considered as so little allied, that I do not recollect among the...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 780 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,150 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial