Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shakespeare, Neither A Comedy Nor A Tragedy Be

Sir John Gilbert's 1849 painting: The Plays of...Image via Wikipedia“Literary criticism in Johnson’s time was dominated by French precepts. Johnson’s riposte was English common sense. Where the French tangled themselves in the rules of art, Johnson’s only principle was truth to life. Voltaire threw up his hands in horreur at Shakespeare’s mingling of tragedy and comedy, kings and clowns. Johnson replies that that is how life is…

‘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 nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and innumerable modes of combination…in which, at the same time, the reveler is hasting to his wine, and the mourner burying his dead friend. ‘ “ - Jonathan Bate, AVI English LIterature, p68.

The painting is Sir John Gilbert's The Plays of William Shakespeare, 1849.

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