Why does Johnson prefer Shakespeare’s comedies to tragedies

Question: Why does Johnson prefer Shakespeare’s comedies to tragedies?


Doctor Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) compares Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies in his literary criticism ” Preface to Shakespeare” (1765). Here, he has preferred Shakespeare’s comedies to tragedies. There are some logical arguments for this regard that are mentioned below.

Reflection of creative genius

Firstly, In Johnson’s view, Shakespeare’s comedies are superior to his tragedies and comfort more to his genius and temperament.

Artificiality of tragedy

Secondly, according to Johnson, his tragedies are less genius and artificial. In tragedy, he often writes with great appearance of toil. On the other hand, comedies are the natural flow of true to human nature such as “The Merchant of Venice”.

Spontaneity of comedy

Thirdly, Johnson conceives that comedy was more suitable to Shakespeare’s genius than tragedy because in tragedies he always struggling after some occasion to be comic, but in comedy, he seems to repose or luxuriate as a mood of thinking of congenial nature.

More Notes of Criticism

Lack of satisfaction

Fourthly, Johnson believes that his tragedies lack something we desire and look for. Here we can say that poetic justice is perfectly justified in comedies, not in tragedies.


To conclude, we can summarize that, Shakespeare’s tragedies are the product of his skill whereas the comedies are the result of his instinctive genius.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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