Preface to Shakespeare Questions and Answers
by Samuel Johnson

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

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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...

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