Dr. Samuel Johnson: From Meme to Literary Titan - the Man Behind the Confusion

Uncover the remarkable bond between Dr. Samuel Johnson and Shakespeare through his works, performances, and influential writings

Dr. Samuel Johnson: From Meme to Literary Titan - the Man Behind the Confusion

Wednesday June 07, 2023,

3 min Read

You may have come across a meme featuring a perplexed gentleman reading a book, his expression reflecting the confusion many of us feel when encountering challenging texts. The caption humorously exclaims, "What the hell am I reading?" This image, while amusing, only scratches the surface of the man behind the meme - Dr. Samuel Johnson. Regarded as one of the most significant English writers since Shakespeare, Johnson's impact extends far beyond his internet fame. As we delve deeper into his life and remarkable contributions, we uncover a profound connection between this literary titan and the iconic playwright himself.

Dr. Samuel Johnson, born in 1709 to a modest family of booksellers in Staffordshire, England, left an indelible mark on the literary landscape of the 18th century. Although Johnson's reputation often stands in the shadow of Shakespeare, he shares a profound connection with the renowned playwright. In fact, Johnson's immense admiration for Shakespeare permeates his works, firmly establishing him as a worthy successor to the Bard's legacy.

Johnson's fascination with Shakespeare began in his formative years. As a child, he would browse his father's bookshop, immersing himself in the works of the literary greats. It was during these early encounters with Shakespeare's plays that Johnson developed an enduring love and reverence for the playwright's genius.

Throughout his career, Johnson consistently celebrated Shakespeare's literary prowess. In his groundbreaking work, "The Plays of William Shakespeare," Johnson undertook the monumental task of providing insightful commentary and critical analysis of each of Shakespeare's plays. Published in 1765, this ambitious project aimed to shed light on the nuances and enduring significance of Shakespeare's works. Johnson's extensive commentary helped shape the way future generations approached and understood Shakespearean plays.

Beyond his written works, Johnson's admiration for Shakespeare extended to his public performances and discussions. Johnson would often recite passages from Shakespeare's plays, captivating his audience with the sheer power and beauty of the words. His dramatic readings brought the plays to life, allowing audiences to experience the timeless brilliance of Shakespeare firsthand.

Johnson's impact on Shakespearean studies did not end with his lifetime. His profound insights and commentary influenced subsequent generations of scholars and critics. His work laid the foundation for the ongoing exploration and interpretation of Shakespeare's plays, ensuring that the playwright's genius continued to resonate across centuries.

While the meme featuring Johnson captures a moment of humorous bewilderment, it is essential to recognize the depth of his intellect and contributions. Johnson's connection to Shakespeare, far from being a mere coincidence, highlights his significant role in preserving and promoting the legacy of the Bard. Through his writings, performances, and discussions, Johnson brought Shakespeare into the hearts and minds of countless individuals, cementing the playwright's status as a literary giant.

So, the next time you encounter that meme with the perplexed gentleman, take a moment to reflect on the profound connection between Dr. Samuel Johnson and William Shakespeare. Let it serve as a reminder of the vast influence these literary luminaries have had on our understanding and appreciation of the written word.