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Notes To Shakespeare, Volume Iii: The Tragedies

User: silviya
Notes To Shakespeare,  Volume Iii: The Tragedies
Dr. Johnson'S Reaction To Shakespeare'S Tragedies Is A Curious One,
Compounded As It Is Of Deep Emotional Involvement In a Few Scenes In
Some Plays And A Strange Dispassionateness Toward Most Of The Others. I
Suspect That His Emotional Involvement Took Root When He Read
Shakespeare As A Boy--One Remembers The Terror He Experienced In Reading
Of The Ghost In _Hamlet_, And It Was Probably Also As A Boy That He
Suffered That Shock Of Horrified Outrage And Grief At The Death Of
Cordelia That Prevented Him From Rereading The Scene Until Be Came To
Edit The Play. Johnson'S Deepest Feelings And Convictions, Professor
Clifford Has Recently Reminded Us, Can Be Traced Back To His Childhood
And Adolescence. But It Is Surprising To Learn, As One Does From His
Commentary, That Other Scenes In These Very Plays (_Hamlet_ And _King
Lear_, And In _Macbeth_, Too) Leave Him Unmoved, If One Can So Interpret
The Absence Of Any But An Explanatory Note On, Say, Lear'S Speech
Beginning "Pray, Do Not Mock Me;/I Am A Very Foolish Fond Old Man."
Besides This Negative Evidence There Is Also The Positive Evidence Of
Many Notes Which Display The Dispassionate Editorial Mind At Work Where
One Might Expect From Johnson An Outburst Of Personal Feeling. There Are
Enough Of These Outbursts To Warrant Our Expecting Others, But We Are
Too Frequently Disappointed. Perhaps Johnson Thought Of Most Of
Shakespeare'S Tragedies As "Imperial Tragedies" And That Is Why He Could
Maintain A Stance Of Aloofness; Conversely, "The Play Of _Timon_ Is A
Domestick Tragedy, And Therefore Strongly Fastens On The Attention Of
The Reader." But The "Tragedy" Of Timon Does Not Capture The Attention
Of The Modern Reader, And Perhaps All Attempts To Fix Johnson'S Likes
And Dislikes, And The Reasons For Them, In The Canon Of Shakespeare'S
Plays Must Circle Endlessly Without Ever Getting To Their Destination.

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