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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Johnson's Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0036  Monday, 8 January 2001

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 05 Jan 2001 11:39:58 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0028 Johnson's Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Arthur Lindley <
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        Date:   Saturday, 6 Jan 2001 09:43:29 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0028 Johnson's Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 05 Jan 2001 11:39:58 -0600
Subject: 12.0028 Johnson's Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0028 Johnson's Shakespeare

To Ms. Blankenship:

I see two points of interest: the editing and the prefacing. Johnson
reviewed all the previous editions and applied his immense learning to
the problems of the text. I believe his edition set the standard for
half a century or more. Such a matter would only really be important to
someone interested in the arcane matter of the history of the textual
editing of S, however.

The prefaces, by contrast, are a complete joy. Johnson was not only
remarkably learned but had tremendous insights and a beautifully lucid
prose style. He was, of course, a man of the 18th Century, rather
conservative, somewhat overbearing and egotistical, and on occasions
infuriating, but if you just let him talk, you will gain much from just
a little work. I never go back to the place in the Preface where he
hammers the Neo-Classical Unity fanatics without great pleasure and a
strong incentive to cheer.

I suppose you could compare him to C. S. Lewis or G. K. Chesterton among
more recent writers, but so much greater that they appear as rather pale
shadows in comparison. (And I have great admiration for both those men
as to learning, insight and lucidity.)

I recommend that whenever you read a play, drag out Johnson and read his
comments. You may not always agree with him-I never completely agree
with him-but you will know that you have encountered a thoughtful and
precise mind who loved reading good books and talking about them.

Enjoy!

don bloom

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Lindley <
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Date:           Saturday, 6 Jan 2001 09:43:29 +0800
Subject: 12.0028 Johnson's Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0028 Johnson's Shakespeare

Well, you should certainly read the preface.  It's one of the most
important documents in the history of Shakespeare criticism  -- e.g.,
for its demolition of the theory of the unities-and it's a wonderful
antidote to the gush and bombast of Harold Bloom.  The notes are
famously eloquent, shrewd, blunt and opinionated, usually all at once.

Arthur Lindley
 

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