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Chapter 11 - Johnson’s Editions of Shakespeare

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2022

Greg Clingham
Affiliation:
Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
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Summary

Johnson’s stand against prejudice is reflected in the critical and editorial aspects of his “Shakespeare.” His editions contain the distinguished Preface and notes and express Johnson’s dialogue with earlier editions. This chapter considers Johnson on the methods of Pope, Theobald, Hanmer, and Warburton and suggests the collaborative nature of Johnson’s contributions. Defending “the dull duty of an editor,” Johnson concedes the task is impossible, and his later editions display second thoughts, generally favoring conservative readings. Johnson’s notes are varied and clarify meanings through paraphrase, with examples from Measure for Measure and Othello, the latter exemplifying Johnson’s sensitivity to female suffering. The central criterion of Johnson’s criticism – “general nature” – is then addressed. The essay concludes with detailed analysis of the death of Cardinal Beaufort from Henry VI Part 2, a scene heavily marked up by Johnson in his Warburton and described as “scarcely the work of any pen but Shakespeare’s.”

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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