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SHAKESPEARE AND TRAGEDY Bevington, etal. SHAKESPEARE STAGE, SCREEN AND FILM, pp 497-499.

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Presentation on theme: "SHAKESPEARE AND TRAGEDY Bevington, etal. SHAKESPEARE STAGE, SCREEN AND FILM, pp 497-499."— Presentation transcript:

1 SHAKESPEARE AND TRAGEDY Bevington, etal. SHAKESPEARE STAGE, SCREEN AND FILM, pp

2 Defining tragedy Shakespeare’s career coincided with the revival of interest in the classics and renewed fascination with tragedy.

3 Aristotle and tragedy Aristotle theorized the genre by examining the Greek plays of the 5 th century, most notably OEDIPUS THE KING.

4 According to Aristotle… Tragic action must have a beginning, middle and end Must be of a certain magnitude Evoke pity and fear and by arousing emotions, purge them (catharsis) Tragic hero was an exceptional person Hero could not avoid fate Conflicts are resolved by the hero’s downfall and often the destruction of others Without exception, Shakespeare’s tragedies do end with the death of the protagonist

5 Defining Shakespearean Tragedy Shakespeare and his contemporaries did not model their work upon Greek models Their models were the Roman plays of Seneca that inspired early works like Gorboduc (1565) and The Spanish Tragedy (1592)

6 The English morality play The battle of good against evil as evidenced in the morality plays of the age before Shakespeare was another source of inspiration.

7 The Mirror for Magistrates The Mirror for Magistrates is a collection of English poems from the Tudor period by various authors which retell the lives and the tragic ends of various historical figures. It provides another source for Renaissance tragedies by Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

8 Shakespeare’s invention In comparison to the morality plays and the de causibus tradition (exemplified by The Mirror for Magistrates), Shakespeare’s tragedies are secular although the terms in which several of his heroes understand their suffering and death are recognizably Christian. Shakespeare departed from the Greeks in that they do not follow the classic unities of time, place and action Several of the tragedies are based upon historical or quasi-historical figures: King Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet. Romeo and Juliet and Othello are set in Italy.

9 A career-long pursuit He wrote tragedies throughout his career. Many feel that his last six, written between 1600 and 1608 reflect a turn to pessimism: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus. His early tragedies, Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet seem less complex in comparison. Shakepeare tended to follow the form of the Roman tragedian Seneca.

10 Seneca’s works translated During the reign of Elizabeth all the ten tragedies then ascribed to Seneca were translated into English verse. Three of these -- Troas, Thyestes, and Hercules Furens -- were translated by Jasper Heywood, younger son of John Heywood, a fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford. Alexander Neville, a Cambridge student translated Oedipus. John Studley, scholar and fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, was responsible for the versions of Agamemnon, Medea, Hercules Oetaeus, and Hippolytus. Thomas Nuce, fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, translated Octavia; and the remaining play, or rather fragments of two plays, Thebais, or as it is sometimes called Phoenissae, was rendered into English by Thomas Newton, who had been a student at both Oxford and Cambridge.

11 Comic vs. Tragic view Comedy represents a social order flexible enough to welcome changing values, new perceptions and aberrant behavior. Tragedy represents societies thrown into crisis in which the hero must respond.

12 He emphasizes character over fate Edwin Booth as Hamlet in the mid-19 th century. His protagonists shape their own destinies.

13 Romeo and Juliet The least Aristotelian of the tragedies.

14 Othello The most Aristotelian of the tragedies.

15 He matures with age… Many feel that his last six, written between 1600 and 1608 reflect a turn to pessimism: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus. His early tragedies, Titus Andronicus  and Romeo and Juliet seem less complex in comparison.

16 Psychological realism Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth  share a sophisticated psychological realism.

17 HAMLET Hamlet, like the play that bears his name, is in a class by himself. Some have found his “tragic flaw” to be inaction. He seems to move toward an acceptance of his fate—“the readiness is all.”

18 Famous Soliloquys All of his mature heroes are self-reflective and share those thoughts in famous soliloquys. These four plays take readers and audiences into the deepest and most universal of human desires and fears. Shakespeare’s tragic endings do not always follow the pattern of catharsis defined by Aristotle. An illustration from Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

19 “Invention of the human” The difficulty of defining Shakespearean tragedy may in fact be a symptom of the play’s greatness and their humanity. (According to Harold Bloom – the invention of the human.)

20 Samuel Johnson In his 1765 edition of the plays, Samuel Johnson wrote this preface: “Shakespeare’s plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting the real state of sublunary nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and innumerable modes of combination; and expressing the course of the world, in which the loss of one is the gain of another; in which, at the same time, the reveller is hasting to his wine, and the mourner burying his friend; in which the malignity of one is sometimes defeated by the frolick of another; and many mischiefs and many benefits are done and hindered without design.”

21 Shakespeare’s Tragedies Titus Andronicus (1594)

22 Romeo and Juliet (1595)

23 Julius Caesar (1599)

24 Hamlet (1600)

25 Troilus & Cressida (1601)

26 Othello (1604)

27 King Lear (1605)

28 The Scottish Play (1605) MACBETH

29 Antony and Cleopatra (1606)

30 Coriolanus (1607)

31 Timon of Athens (1608)


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