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Preface to Shakespeare

Preface to Shakespeare

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Preface to Shakespeare-Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson in his ―Preface to Shakespeare‖ highlights several qualities and defects in Shakespeare‘s plays whether they are comedies or tragedies. Samuel Johnson‘s preface got enough fame due to the points that he raised in his writing. However, while highlighting the defects and qualities of Shakespeare‘s work, Johnson, sometimes contradicts his own views. Samuel Johnson, a well-known figure of late Augustan age is considered superb for his critical preface, Preface to Shakespeare by most critics. Harold Bloom defines ―Johnson‘s vitality as a critic‖ as ―always sufficiently inside Shakespeare‘s plays to judge them as he judges human life, without ever forgetting that Shakespeare‘s function is to bring life to mind‖. In his preface, Johnson identifies several strengths and imperfections in Shakespeare‘s capabilities of writing. Shakespeare develops his argument in considering Shakespeare and his works as antique. He used the word ―antique‖ as referential. He argues that something written a long time ago, must have been discussed a lot and if it is still admired, it contains some established qualities because it has gone through a phase of testing, checking and comparing Strengths of Shakespeare‘s Plays According to Johnson Shakespeare was an established authority by the time of Johnson. According to Johnson, ―Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature‖. By nature, Johnson means the observation of reality. Johnson says that Shakespeare had the ability to provide a ‗just representation of general nature‘. Here, Johnson presents the idea of universality. David Daiches reports that Dr. Johnson appreciates Shakespeare because he, according to Dryden‘s requirement of a just and lively image of human nature, fulfils it. He further explains that Shakespeare as a dramatist is praised because he does what is expected from a dramatist. Shakespeare‘s writings have a main theme of good and evil, these are universal problems, and everyone agrees to these problems. All humanity faces good as well as evil so the author who uses these problems will be related to people‘s lives. Read more in Classics « People Never Really Understand a Person and Their Actions Until They Consider Things From the Person‘s Point of View by Climbing Into His Skin and Walk Around in It.Gabriel Betteredge and The ―Other‖ in Victorian Literature » According to Johnson, art should be exact representation (imitation) of general nature as Plato says that art is the imitation of nature. Also, dealing with the theme of universality, Johnson seems to believe in modern thoughts that truth has to be universal, accepted by all and common for all. Nature is represented by classicists so copying them also means copying nature. Hamlet says, ―Hold up a mirror to nature‖, which means imitation of nature according to Platonic theory. Shakespeare is also categorized by Johnson as poet of nature. Johnson, further describes about Shakespeare‘s characters, ―His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated..‖. Shakespeare‘s characters are individuals but represent universality. Johnson elaborates about

Shakespeare‘s characters, ―Shakespeare has no heroes; his scenes are occupied by men‖. It means that Shakespeare‘s characters are of general kind and are not restricted by customs and conventions of any one society. David Daiches describes that by having no heroes does not mean that his characters are not heroic or impressive but that they are not supernatural beings but ―men, whom we recognize as fellow human beings‖ acting according to the general laws of nature. Also, if Shakespeare uses ghosts, he gives them humanly characteristics as they speak like human beings such as Hamlet‘s father‘s ghost Johnson describes language of Shakespeare as comprehensible. He also describes that Shakespeare‘s characters differ from one another because of the usage of language. Johnson praises Shakespeare and comments, ―His drama is the mirror of life‖. According to Johnson, his plays are so realistic that we get practical knowledge from them. Johnson says, ―Shakespeare‘s plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind..‖. According to Johnson, divisions of Shakespeare‘s plays into tragedies and comedies is wrong. Eliot shares Johnson‘s idea of incorrect labelling of Shakespeare‘s dramas as tragic, comic and historic. Johnson judges Shakespeare‘s tragedy as ―a skill‖ and his comedy as an ‗instinct‘. He thinks that the natural medium for Shakespeare is comedy not tragedy. According to him, Shakespeare had to struggle for his tragedies but still they did not reach perfection. He presents a mingled drama – a tragi-comedy, which provides instructions in both the ways, as a tragedy as well as a comedy. He reinforces if tragedy and comedy are mingled, the effect one wants to create on the audience is impaired. Mingling of tragedy and comedy means to represent the reality of the world as it is Weaknesses in Shakespeare‘s Plays According to Johnson Johnson identifies, ―The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing‖. Dr. Johnson, like utilitarian, seems to believe in the usefulness of art. He is one of them who want to prove that art is profitable for society. He also agrees to Sidney‘s idea of poet as a moral teacher. According to Johnson, poetry should make us better and it should be didactic. David Daiches criticizes Johnson for his two contradictory remarks—just representation of human nature and poetry as a medium of moral instruction. David Daiches emphasizes that human nature not only deals with good side of life but also the evil aspects are there but for instructing morally, evil should be omitted, which means that the writer is not depicting true human nature. Humanity contains moral as well as immoral aspects so poetry cannot be moral teacher or true human nature representation both. Johnson comments on Shakespeare‘s style, ―He sacrifices virtue to convenience..‖. Johnson‘s argument is prejudice of the age. According to his opinion, rational thinking leads to moral thinking. Anthony House depicts, ―Johnson exhibits emphatic distaste for Shakespeare‘s lack of moral purpose‖. Johnson reinforces on a writer‘s duty ―to make the world better‖, which means, he emphasizes on moral role of literature, which is again contradictory to neo-classical ideas.

Another defect highlighted by Johnson is Shakespeare does not give much consideration to plot construction. Initially, in the preface, Johnson praises Shakespeare for his universality, his not belonging to any one age, place or time but then, he contradicts with himself as he identifies it a flaw of Shakespeare‘s style. For Johnson, clarity and diction are important. Johnson criticizes Shakespeare‘s use of language. According to him, Shakespeare is not of civilized kind and is also over-punning. Sometimes, it seems that Shakespeare is involved in providing mere dialogues not related to the plot. Johnson vigorously defends Shakespeare against charges of failing to adhere to the classical doctrine of the dramatic unities of time, place and action. According to Aristotle, these unities are necessary for the praiseworthy work. As far as, unity of action is concerned, Shakespeare is good at it but the other two unities of time and place are subservient to the mind: since the audience does not confound stage action with reality, it has no trouble with a shift of scene from Rome to Alexandria. Anthony House claims, ―By reversing the entire paradigm through which the unities are used, Johnson changes Shakespeare‘s fault into a praiseworthy asset‖. According to Johnson, the idea of unity of place and time is contradictory in terms of reason and rationality. Johnson also elaborates, ―Such violations of rules mere positive become the comprehensive genius of Shakespeare‖. Anthony House depicts the importance of Johnson‘s work in terms of Shakespeare‘s study. By his preface, Johnson tries to highlight certain views about Shakespeare‘s genius. Whatever Johnson has contributed, it is precious. Dr. Richard Clarke LITS2306 Notes 06D SAMUEL JOHNSON PREFACE TO SHAKESPEARE (1765) In his preface to his edition of the collected works of Shakespeare, Johnson begins by noting that we often seem to cherish the works of the past and to neglect the present. Praises, he writes, are often ―without reason lavished on the dead‖ (320) as a result of which it sometimes seems that the ―honours due only to excellence are paid to antiquity‖ (320). Everyone, Johnson suggests, is ―perhaps . . . more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age‖ (320). Time is the test of genius, Johnson contends: To works . . . of which the excellence is not absolute and definite, but gradual and comparative; to works not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientific, but appealing wholly to observation and experience, no other test can be applied than length of dur at ion and continuance of esteem. What mankind have long possessed they have often examined and compared; and if they persist to value the possession, it is because frequent comparisons have confirmed opinion in its favour. . . . [I]n the productions of genius, nothing can be styled excellent till it has been compared with other works of the same kind. (320) With this test in mind, Johnson suggests that Shakespeare meets these criteria and ―may now begin to assume the dignity of an ancient, and earn the privilege of established fame and prescriptive veneration‖ (321) because he has ―long outlived his century, the term commonly used as the test of literary merit‖(321). That he deserves such acclaim can be verified by

―comparing him with other authors‖ (321). The question which arises, given the fallibility of ―human judgment‖ (321), is ―by what peculiarities of excellence Shakespeare has gained and kept the favour of his countrymen?‖ (321). Johnson argues that Shakespeare‘s perhaps most important skill concerns accurate characterisation: he offers ―representations of general nature‖ (321) rather than of ―particular manners‖ (321) peculiar to individuals or particular places and times. In a view of Shakespeare that has come to be constantly regurgitated, he praises the Bard‘s characterisation in particular for its fidelity to human nature in general: Shakespeare is above all writers . . . the poet of nature; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life. His characters are not modified by the customs of particular places, unpractised by the rest of the world; by the peculiarities of studies and professions . . .; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions: they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply, and observation will always find. His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated. . . . In the writings of other poets a character is too often an individual; in those of Shakespeare it is commonly a species. (321) Where other dramatists offer ―hyperbolic or aggravated characters‖ (322), Shakespeare‘s ―scenes are occupied only be men, who act and speak as the reader thinks that he should himself have spoken or acted on the same occasion‖ (322). Characterisation ―ample and general‖ (322) in this way, that is, his ―adherence to general nature‖ (322), is supplemented by appropriate strokes of individuality: ―no poet ever kept his personages more distinct from each other. . . . [T]hough some may be equally adapted to every person, it will be difficult to find any that can be properly transferred from the present possessor to another claimant‖ (322). However, Johnson hastens to add, Shakespeare ―always makes nature predominate over accident; and if he preserves the essential character, is not very carefully of distinctions superinduced and adventitious‖ (322). Even when dealing with supernatural matters, Johnson stresses, Shakespeare ―approximates the remote, and familiarises the wonderful; the event which he represents will not happen, but if it were possible, its effects would probably be such as he has assigned‖ (322). All in all, Shakespeare ―has not only shewn human nature as it acts in real exigencies, but as it would be found in trials, to which it cannot be exposed‖ (322). Whatever his subject matter, as Shakespeare‘s personages act upon principles arising from genuine passion, very little modified by particular forms, their pleasures and vexations are communicable to al times and to all places; they are natural, and therefore durable; the adventitious peculiarities of personal habits, are only superficial dies, bright and pleasing for a little while, yet soon fading to a dim tinct, without any remains of former lustre; but the discriminations fo true passionare the colours of nature; they pervade the whole mass, and can only perish with the body that exhibits them. (323-324) As such, his ―drama is the mirror of life‖ (322) from which other writers can learn much simply ―by reading human sentiments in human language, by scenes from which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the world, and a confessor predict the progress of the passions‖ (322). Moreover, if his characterisation is realistic, so too are his dialogues. Johnson, the editor of the first dictionary of the English language, argues that Shakespeare has captured the enduring spirit of the English language: there is in every nation, a style which never becomes obsolete, a certain mode of phraseology so consonant and congenial to the analogy and principles of its respective language as to

remain settled and unaltered; this style is probably to be sought in the common intercourse of life, among those who speak only to be understood, without ambition of elegance. The polite are always catching modish innovations, and the learned depart from established forms of speech, in hope of finding or making better; those who wish for distinction forsake the vulgar. . . . [B]ut there is a conversation above grossness and below refinement, where propriety resides, and where this poet seems to have gathered his comic dialogue. (324) The speech of each of Shakespeare‘s characters is ―so evidently determined by the incident which produces it, and is pursued with so much ease and simplicity, that it seems scarcely to claim the merit of fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent selection out of common conversation, and common occurrences‖ (321). Johnson then turns his attention to the criticisms commonly made of Shakespeare‘s plays, not least that he did not follow the prescribed rules. Firstly, he deals with the view that Shakespeare is guilty of blurring the genres of tragedy and comedy which ought to be distinct. Johnson argues that the ancient poets, out of the ―chaos of mingled purposes and casualties‖ (322) and ―according to the laws which custom had prescribed‖ (322), had ―selected, some the crimes of men, and some their absurdities; some the momentous vicissitudes of life, and some the lighter occurrences; some th terrors of distress and some the gaieties of prosperity‖ (322). It was for this reason that there ―rose two modes of imitation, known by the names of tragedy and comedy, compositions intended to promote different ends by contrary means, and considered . . . little allied‖ (322). More recently, Johnson contends, there has been a tendency to divide Shakespeare‘s work into tragedies, comedies and histories but that these are not distinguished ―by any very exact or definite ideas‖ (323). For these, comedy was defined simply as an ―action which ended happily to the principal persons, however serious or distressful through its intermediate incidents‖ (323). To be a tragedy, similarly, ―required only a calamitous conclusion‖ (323), as a result of which ―plays were written, which, by changing the catastrophe, were tragedies today, and comedies tomorrow‖ (323). Histories were viewed as plays consisting of a ―series of actions, with no other than chronological succession, independent on each other‖ (323). Histories, Johnson argues, are―not always very nicely distinguished from tragedy‖ (323). Johnson argues that Shakespeare‘s plays, however, through ―all these denominations of the drama‖ (323), are neither tragedies nor comedies in the strict sense of these terms, but compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the real state of sublunary nature which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and innumerable modes of combination; and expressing the course of the world, in which the loss of the one is the gain of the other. (322) Shakespeare has ―united the powers of exciting laughter and sorrow not only in one mind, but in one composition‖ (323) as a result of which almost all his plays are ―div ided between serious and ludicrous characters‖ (323). Shakespeare‘s ―mode of composition‖ (323) is always the same: an ―interchange of seriousness and merriment, by which the mind is softened at one time, and exhilarated at another‖ (323). Johnson justifies Shakespeare‘s ―mingled drama‖ (323) on the grounds that the mixture of sorrow and joy is more realistic and, thus, morally instructive: there is always an appeal open from criticism to nature; . . . the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing. That the mingled drama may convey all the instruction of tragedy or comedy cannot be denied, because it includes both in its alteration of exhibition and

approaches nearer than either to the appearance of life. (323)In response to the ―specious‖ (323) view that the ―change of scenes‖ (323) in this way causes the ―passions‖ (323) to be ―interrupted in their progression‖ (323) and ―wants at last the power to move‖(323), Johnson argues that the‖interchanges of mingled scenes seldom fail to produce the intended vicissitudes of passion. Fiction cannot move so much, but that the attention may be easily transferred‖ (323). All ―pleasure persists in variety‖ (323). Johnson then proceeds to list all the defects which many have detected in Shakespeare‘s plays. The most important of these is his failure to respect the unities of action, time and place. Johnson is on Shakespeare‘s side in these respects. With regard to the unity of action, Johnson argues that the laws applicable to tragedies and comedies are not applicable to Shakespeare‘s histories. All that is required of such plays is that the ―changes of action be so prepared as to be understood, that the incidents be various and affecting, and the characters consistent, natural, and distinct. No other unity is intended, and therefore none is sought‖ (325). In the other plays, there is unity of action: ―his plan has commonly what Aristotle requires, a beginning, a middle and an end; one event is concatenated with another, and the conclusion follows by easy consequence‖ (325). The ―end of the play is the end of expectation‖ (325). With regard to the unities of time and place, Johnson argues that these ―are not essential to a just drama‖ (327) even though they arise from the ―supposed necessity of making the drama credible‖ (325). The argument is that the ―mind revolts from evident falsehood, and fiction loses its force when it departs from the resemblance of reality‖ (326) as a result of which the failure to depict on stage one location and a duration corresponding to the length of the audience‘s presence in the auditorium is dramatic heresy. All this does not matter, Johnson argues, because ―spectators are always in their senses and know . . . that the stage is only a stage‖ (326). Vraisemblance is not adversely affected, firstly, by changes in location: the ―different actions that complete a story may be in places very remote from each other; and where is the absurdity of allowing that space to represent first Athen, and then Sicily, which was always known to be neither Sicily nor Athens, but a modern theatre?‖ (326), he asks. Secondly, he argues, time is ―obsequious to the imagination; a lapse of years is as easily conceived as a passage of hours. In contemplation we easily contract the time of real actions, and therefore willingly permit it to be contracted when we only see their imitation‖ (326). All in all, the ―delight of tragedy proceeds from the consciousness of fiction; if we thought murders and treasons real, they would please no more‖ (my emphasis; 326). ―Imitations produce pain or pleasure, not because they are mistaken for realities, but because they bring realities to mind‖ (326). Posted 2nd March 2011 by Shibashish Purkayastha An Apology for Poetry- Sidney Sir Philip Sidney wrote An Apology for Poetry (or, The Defence of Poesy) in approximately 1579, and it was published in 1595, after his death. On the Sublime- Longinus INTRODUCTION

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The Beginnings The East IndiaCompany was formed in 1599 at a meeting attended by leading London merchants and after more than 150years the company had the key to the domination of Bengaland Indiagenerally. Politics and the English language - George Orwell INTRODUCTION. The Intro of the essay asserts the notion that the English language has been disfigured by the human race and is on the residual decline as a resultant. Mr. A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING. by John Donne The Poem: AS virtuous men pass mildly away, And whisper to their souls to go, Whilst some of their sad friends do say, "Now his breath goes," and some say, "No." So let us melt, and make no noise, 5 No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ; 'Twere profanation of our joys To tell the laity our Collar - George Herbert The Poem: A punning title The subject matter of The Collar is very similar to Herbert's Affliction I in itsautobiographical tone and its sense of frustration barely resolved at the end. Unlike that poem, however, the object of the complaint is not at all clear. The Last Ride Together - Robert Browing The Poem: I I said--Then, dearest, since 'tis so, Since now at length my fate I know, Since nothing all my love avails, Since all, my life seemed meant for, fails,

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Context: B orn Eric Blair in India in 1903, George Orwell was educated as a scholarship student at prestigious boarding schools in England. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (Analysis) Context W uthering Heights, which has long been one of the most popular and highly regarded novels in English literature, seemed to hold little promise when it was published in 1847, selling very poorly and receiving only a few mixed reviews. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART X Michael Drayton Drayton‘s Boyhood. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART IX The Successors of Spenser Drummond of Hawthornden. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART VIII Thomas Campion His Life. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART VII Robert Southwell. Samuel Daniel. Robert Southwell. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART VI The Song-Books and Miscellanies Music and Poetry. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART V V. Seafaring and Travel. Richard Knolles‘s Compilations. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART IV The Literature of the Sea FROM THE ORIGINS TO HAKLUYT Early Writers. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART III Sir Walter Raleigh Cynthia and other poems. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART II

The Authorized version and its influence Character of the Bible, its constitution and qualities. English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON PART I The Theatre of the Absurd The Theatre of the Absurd is a term for a distinct style of drama written largely by European playwrights in the 1940s–1960s, though it has become something of a tradition that lives on. The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock (T.S Eliot) Analysis T.S. Eliot started writing "Prufrock Among the Women" in 1909 as a graduate student at Harvard. He revised it over the next couple of years, changing the title to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" along the way. The Wasteland (T.S Eliot) Analysis The poem begins with a section entitled "The Burial of the Dead." In it, the narrator -- perhaps a representation of Eliot himself -- describes the seasons. Sonnet 65 - "Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea What's he saying? "Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea, / But sad mortality o'ersways their power," Since nothing in the whole world can survive forever, "How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, / Whose action is no stronger than a flower?" How could something as delicate a Sonnet 60 "Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore" (Shakespeare) What's he saying? "Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore / So do our minutes hasten to their end;" Like waves moving toward the pebbled shore, the minutes of our lives are ticking down, "Each changing place with that which goes before / In sequent toil all forwards do contend." Each m Sonnet 18 (Shakespeare) "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought / I summon up remembrance of things past," When I am in a pensive state and recall my memories of past things, "I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought / And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:" I regret that I did not achieve many things I Commonwealth Literature Although Commonwealth literature (from the Commonwealth of Nations, hence written in English) and postcolonial literature (translated into English) are taught in many English departments, they remain problematic for at least two reasons.

Postcolonial Criticism A type of cultural criticism, postcolonial criticism usually involves the analysis of literary texts produced in countries and cultures that have come under the control of European colonial powers at some point in their history. Formalism Formalism is a general term covering several similar types of literary criticism that arose in the 1920s and 1930s, flourished during the 1940s and 1950s, and are still in evidence today. Formalists see the literary work as an object in its own right. Marxist Criticism Marxist criticism is a type of criticism in which literary works are viewed as the product of work and whose practitioners emphasize the role of class and ideology as they reflect, propagate, and even challenge the prevailing social order. Structuralism Structuralism is a theory of humankind in which all elements of human culture, including literature, are thought to be parts of a system of signs. Reader-response criticism Reader-response criticism encompasses various approaches to literature that explore and seek to explain the diversity (and often divergence) of readers' responses to literary works. Louise Rosenblatt is often credited with pioneering the approaches inLiterature as Exploration (1938). Psychoanalytic criticism Deconstruction Deconstruction involves the close reading of texts in order to demonstrate that any given text has irreconcilably contradictory meanings, rather than being a unified, logical whole. As J. Feminist Criticism Feminist criticism became a dominant force in Western literary studies in the late 1970s, when feminist theory more broadly conceived was applied to linguistic and literary matters. New Historicism. The new historicism developed during the 1980s, largely in reaction to the text-only approach pursued by formalist New Critics and the critics who challenged the New Criticism in the 1970s. New Criticism. The New Criticism is a type of formalist literary criticism that reached its height during the 1940s and 1950s and that received its name from John Crowe Ransom‘s 1941 book The New Criticism. New Critics treat a work of literature as if it were a self-contained, self-referential object. The Victorian Age- The painterly Image in poetry( An overview) Timeline of 17th century of American and British Writers The Age of Chaucer and the Revival For out of oldë feldës, as men seith, Cometh al this newë corn fro yeer te yere; And out of oldë bokës, in good feith, Cometh all this newë science that men lere.

Chaucer, ―Parliament of Foules‖ SPECIMENS OF THE LANGUAGE. Our first selection, from Piers Plowman (cir. Sons and Lovers (Overall Summary and Chapterwise analysis) The first part of the novel focuses on Mrs. Morel and her unhappy marriage to a drinking miner. She has many arguments with her husband, some of which have painful results: on separate occasions, she is locked out of the house and hit in the head with a drawer. Estranged from her husband, Mrs. Pardise Lost (Book I to XII) Short Analysis Acknowledgement: This work has been summarized using the 2nd Ed of 1674 in the Norton Critical Edition (Ed. Scott Elledge) 1975. Quotations are for the most part taken from that work, as are paraphrases of its commentary.

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