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Johnson's theory of 'Anacronicism'



Anacronicism refers to the violation of chronology or the indifference to historical accuracy. Johnson considers this as one of the great fault of Shakespeare. Shakespeare is indifferent about the distinctions of time and place, and gives to one age on manners and opinions which pertain to another. In Shakespeare’s plays no distinction of time or place is observed but the customs, opinions and manners of one age or one country are freely attributed to another. As a result, the criteria of like hood and possibility have been shattered. For example, Shakespeare mingles classical legends with Gothic mythology in a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Alexander Pope opines that this defect is to be attributed not to Shakespeare himself but to those who interpolated unnecessary details of their own into his plays. But Johnson does not agree this. However it must be confessed that he was not the only violate of chronology, Sidney, a contemporary writer who confounded in his Arcadia pastoral period with the Feudal Age, whereas the two ages were quite opposite to each other.

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