Samuel Johnson's "Preface To Shakespeare" Essay

1045 words - 4 pages

We cannot say that a writer is great just because his writings are great and have stood the test of time. In other words a writer cannot be termed great only because of his antiquity. Dr. Samuel Johnson says in his "Preface to Shakespeare" that a work of literature is great only when it is worth reading. When it lacks excellence, it will be rejected. A work of literature lives only when it has some value. Its value changes from time to time and from age to age. In spite of this changing attitude of the readers towards a literary work, the work must contain some absolute standards if it has to stand the test of time. In the light of the above, we can Asses the value of a literary composition from the way it appeals to the readers of a particulate time and to the readers of all times.

Therefore the respect for a writer of ancient times depends upon the fact that his works are worth reading even in the present time. In this aspect Dr. |Johnson says that Shakespeare is a great and ancient writer because his greatness has stood the test of time. In his time, Shakespeare appealed to his readers and his audience and so he had a contemporary appeal. Besides, his works have some universal qualities, which made his immortal.

As centuries passed by, the critics began to look at the qualities of Shakespeare examines the special excellence of Shakespeare which preserved his for us as the greatest writer of all time.

If a work of art is to please and satisfy all men for all time, it should deal with the general human nature, common to the whole of humanity. According to Dr. Johnson, Shakespeare's greatness lies in his style of representation of the general human nature. His characters are neither type of certain qualities nor are they some particular persons of distinctive individualistic traits. But they are the true representation of human nature. Even in his dealing with the issues, Shakespeare is representative and true for all times.

The greatness of Shakespeare's plays lies not only in the charming perfection of the separate parts but in the total effect these parts convey. It is always true with Shakespeare that the total effect produced is far greater than the sum total of the individual parts. In comparison with other writers Shakespeare stands supreme judged by any standard. It is not an exaggeration to say that we can evolve a complete system of civil and economical prudence from Shakespeare's plays.

Shakespeare's characters deliver natural dialogues. The naturality lies in what they say and how they say. With respect to Shakespeare "Love" is only one of the passions he depicted in his plays, where as the other writers made love as the only passion in their works. Thus Shakespeare gets variety where as others suffer from monotony. He deals with human emotions that are true to life.

Another great quality in Shakespeare, which Dr. Johnson praises, is that Shakespeare never resorts to exaggeration to make his...

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