The Unities Of Drama In Samuel Johnson's Tragedy

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This logical argument by Johnson over the unities of time makes the crux of the whole preface. It is not only based on logic but also on a broader and greater vision of drama as a genre. It brings the rules of three unities to better light and changes our perspective towards the concept of drama within the sphere of three unities of drama. There hardly seems to be any contradiction in this argument by Johnson and while presenting Shakespeare s art from this particular aspect at such an early time, he seems to be a critic who is far ahead of his time Tragic-comedy While discussing the unique feature of tragic-comedy by Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson analyses it on two levels. One is its effects on the reader and second how this mixing of two genres…show more content…
He says that he tries to please his audience than to instruct them about life. He seems to write without any moral purpose. Similarly his virtuous characters do not express a frank disapproval of wickedness and evil. The axioms found in the plays are casual expressions and not the result of any deliberate effort. He displays his characters in various situations without any significance to their moral position of right and wrong. These characters reach their ends only as result of chance and not according to their moral position. Johnson‘s verdict is that it is always a writer’s moral duty to make this world a better place to live through his works. In his opinion Shakespeare could not perform his…show more content…
Firstly it is not based on evidence from plays and secondly it is self contradictory. The inherent contradiction in Johnson’s criticism of Shakespeare’s moral aspect becomes evident. He emphasizes the role of literature to be morally instructive as it should bring positive change in man’s life. Meanwhile, he also wants the writer to present human nature vividly, truthfully and clearly. We know that life in reality gives no obvious moral lessons to the observer. So, how a realistic portrayal of life could be didactic and moralistic, in the strict sense of the term and serve as an honest, frank and realistic portrayal of life, simultaneously. The question also arises that how a writer can become a moralist on one hand and depicts an honest representation of life on the other hand. Does it mean that a writer must instruct and teach at the cost of realism? Does the Critic want Shakespeare to be an instructor of life instead of giving a true representation of life in his works? Here, Johnson‘s dilemma becomes crystal clear as he wanted to have it both ways. It could only be possible with the precondition that life was offering moralistic and didactic previews of every situation in
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