The Wikipedia article about Shakespeare's Macbeth contains a section on reading the play as a tragedy of character. This section contains the following unsourced statement:

Johnson asserted that Macbeth, though esteemed for his military bravery, is wholly reviled.[citation needed]

I tried to find a source for this in Johnson on Shakespeare, edited by Walter Raleigh, 1908 (on Archive.org) and on Google Books but without success. Where did Johnson make this statement? (Did he actually use the word "reviled"?)

1 Answer 1


From Samuel Johnson's General Observations on the plays of Shakespeare (I couldn't find a full text of this publication online, but it's quoted in several places including the paper Arthur Sherbo, "Dr. Johnson on Macbeth: 1745 and 1765", The Review of English Studies 2(5) (1951), pp. 40-47, which claims this quote to be at pp. 161-162):

The passions are directed to their true end. Lady Macbeth is merely detested; and though the courage of Macbeth preserves some esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall.

This may be the sentence which has been re-told for the Wikipedia page. The word "revile" is not there, but the word "esteem" is, specifically in reference to Macbeth's "courage" (presumably meaning on the field of battle), and wholly reviled is not an unreasonable conclusion to draw if "every reader rejoices" at the defeat and death of Macbeth.


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