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Preface to Shakespeare

Samuel Johnson

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .a wearisome train of circumlocution, and tells the incident imperfectly in many words, which might have been more plainly delivered in few. Narration in dramatick poetry is, naturally tedious, as it is unanimated and inactive, and obstructs the progress of the action; it should therefore always be rapid, and enlivened by frequent interruption. Shakespeare found it an encumbrance, and instead of lightening it by brevity, endeavoured to recommend it by dignity and splendour.

His declamations or set speeches are commonly cold and weak, for his power was the power of nature; when he endeavoured, like other tragick writers, to catch opportunities of amplification, and instead of inquiring what the occasion demanded, to show how much his stores of knowledge could supply, he seldom escapes without the pity or resentment of his reader.

It is incident to him to be now and then entangled with an unwieldy sentiment, which he cannot well express, and will . . . Read More

Community Reviews

I actually enjoyed this one more than I enjoyed some of the other books I've read for my theory class. Samuel Johnson's claims are very interesting and I enjoyed reading this more than most of the books I've read for this class lately.

Johnson claims that Shakespeare is good and true because he elevates the common and transcends the everyday. His characters and situations are derived from man's general nature, therefore his works act as a "mirror of life." Johnson's appraisal is pretty accurate and it is interesting to read how th

A classic work of English literary criticism. Johnson introduces a comparison which later becomes an essential tool for modern critics. Nicely written, with a lot of interesting observations.

Nothing that will blow your hair back, but a very insightful critique of Shakespeare's genius AND his faults.

"A quibble [or pun] is to Shakespeare what luminous vapors are to the traveler: he follows it at all adventures; it is sure to lead him out of his way, and sure to engulf him in mire. It has

Samuel Johnson’s Preface to Shakespeare was not meant to be read absent his version of the Shakespeare plays. That there are or were versions is not something I had ever considered, but it is a main topic for Samuel Johnson. In this essay he is initially an insightful, more like an insider critic of

The fact that this (fre)e-book was supplemented by a selection of Johnson's notes to Shakespeare makes me suspect that it was transcribed from an actual book, the kind of short, hardbound 'student edition' used by colleges and maybe high schools in the 1920s.

(I can see it in my mind's eye)

At any ra

I have no shame and you will have to deal with that just as Johnson is terrified by bill's use of time and place to create characters not as individuals but entire SPECIES

I tolerate Shakespeare. I loathe Shakespeare criticism.

Also. Blargh.

Loved how impartial this piece of criticism was: both praising Shakespeare yet bringing to light certain critiques (though most were refuted in the end!)

Second time reading, star rating moved from 3 to 4.

"A play read, affects the mind like a play acted." Words to remember.

I enjoy reading
Preface to Shakespeare
, maybe because I agree with most of it (or maybe just because I find Johnson's writing more enjoyable than his contemporaries - satires e

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