Shakespeare and His Critics

Shakespeare and His Critics

Read FREE!

Shakespeare and His Critics

Shakespeare and His Critics

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The object of this book is to give an outline of the attitude of the English and American literary world towards the plays of William Shakespeare from the seventeenth century to the present time. The verdict of the world of playgoers, that some of the plays when well acted were far better worth seeing than those of any other dramatist, has been the same for all generations. But the estimate of the plays by professional writers, as reflected in literary criticism, has varied, or rather the views on which the estimate was based have varied, greatly. For a long time it was a matter of faith with most of them that Shakespeare was 'irregular,' because his construction and method differed widely from that of the dramatists of Greece. Admitting that he was a unique genius, as shown in many passages of force and beauty, it was thought that the plays would be much better if they were less original and more imitative of the ancient models, and the poet had always kept to a certain dignity of diction and situation, and in particular had observed the formal rules which were supposed to be deduced from the plays of the ancient dramatists and were known as the three unities. English common sense continually rebelled against the contention that an English poet lacked taste and culture because he did not imitate the methods or style of the poets of another race, and the position was finally abandoned in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Coleridge barely alludes to it, and Lamb and Hazlitt of the early nineteenth century ignore it completely.

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