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Shakespeare, dramatic comedies


About Shakespeare's endings, Samuel Johnson wrote:

in many of his plays the latter part is evidently neglected. When he found himself near the end of his work, and in view of his reward, he shortened the labor to snatch the profit. He therefore remits his efforts where he should most vigorously exert them, and his catastrophe is improbably produced or imperfectly represented. (71-72)

In the twentieth century, Ernest Schanzer has echoed Dr. Johnson's opinion in his commentary on A Midsummer Night's Dream: "For sheer economy and multiplicity of effect it [the first scene] has no equal in any of Shakespeare's opening scenes, on which he generally bestowed more thought and care than on any other part of his plays" (242). I would suggest, however, that Shakespeare's endings, particularly in the comedies, show a vigorous exertion of effort rather than a remittance, a heightening rather than a shortening of labor. It is, moreover, formal integrity, not the ends of plot structure per se, that governs the effort and labor.