Lives of the Poets

From Tragedy to Reality: Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, and "Antony and Cleopatra" College

William Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra and Samuel Johnson’s exploration of Shakespeare’s techniques and his verity within theatre in ‘The Plays of William Shakespeare' both engage the topic of the representation of reality. The play itself follows the destructive nature of the Roman general Antony and Egyptian empress Cleopatra’s relationship, eventually leading to the tragic suicide, marking the play within the tragic genre. Yet Shakespeare’s historical appreciation allows full reflection of reality itself, with a multitude of theatrical references to historical texts and events within his play, giving it a ‘Roman’ history genre, just as much as it is a tragedy. Johnson’s appraisal of Shakespeare’s verisimilitude in character creation, and the natural complexities that mirror both contemporary society, and the society of its respective era. The exploration of universal themes of; love, power and loyalty through the successful ‘dialogue of the author’ [1] also permits full replication of authenticity, and the examination of the Shakespeare devising a new perspective on moral realism. [2]

Johnson’s critical appreciation begins to explore Shakespeare’s ability to accurately reflect a sense of reality beyond all modern...

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