Pleasure in the theories of Samuel Johnson, William Wordsworth and Terry Eagleton

Pleasure in the theories of Samuel Johnson, William Wordsworth and Terry Eagleton

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The development of pleasure can be seen in Samuel Johnson’s preface to Shakespeare, which examines Shakespeare’s ability to please the reader over many years. Shakespeare has this ability because his focus was on the universal. This idea is supported in William Wordsworth’s theory where the emphasis is on community pleasure through the use of simple language. The result of these two theories can be seen in Terry Eagleton’s theory where we see that the use of the universal causes the increase in popularity of literature among the middle-class.
In Samuel Johnson’s Preface to Shakespeare he discusses the reason as to why William Shakespeare has such longevity. Johnson believes Shakespeare belongs to a category entirely his own. Not only are critics still examining his work, readers still continue to enjoy reading his literature. Shakespeare was not one to follow the rules and this is where his creation of pleasure grows. This deliberate ignorance for the norm can be seen in his characters and in his language. Shakespeare’s characters are enjoyable because they are relatable and plausible. They range from the serious to the ridiculous and everywhere in between. In this way Shakespeare manages to encompass every person who would have went to see his plays or read his works. Johnson feels that this is important because people like what they can identify with, whether it is a love struck young man imagining himself to be just like Romeo or a comical, vulgar-humoured person laughing along with the Nurse. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet also demonstrates how his characters could be from anywhere, they are “not modified by customs of a particular place” (Johnson 374). In his play they are from Venice, Italy but in modern adap...


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... of English Literature. 1983. The Norton Anthology of Theory and
Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W Norton & Company,
2010. 2140-2146. Print.
Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. New York:
W.W Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
---. “William Wordsworth.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. New
York: W.W Norton & Company, 2010. 556-559. Print.
Johnson, Samuel. Preface to Shakespeare. 1765. The Norton Anthology of Theory and
Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W Norton & Company,
2010. 373-386. Print.
Wordsworth, William. Preface to Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and Other Poems. 1802. The
Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York:
W.W Norton & Company, 2010. 559-579. Print.

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