Show Less
Restricted access

Shakespeare’s Tragedies Reviewed

A Spectator’s Role

Series:

Hugh M. Richmond

Shakespeare’s Tragedies Reviewed explores how the recognition of spectator interests by the playwright has determined the detailed character of Shakespeare tragedies. Utilizing Shakespeare’s European models and contemporaries, including Cinthio and Lope de Vega, and following forms such as Aristotle’s second, more popular style of tragedy (a double ending of punishment for the evil and honor for the good), Hugh Macrae Richmond elicits radical revision of traditional interpretations of the scripts. The analysis includes a major shift in emphasis from conventionally tragic concerns to a more varied blend of tones, characterizations, and situations, designed to hold spectator interest rather than to meet neoclassical standards of coherence, focus, and progression. This reinterpretation also bears on modern staging and directorial emphasis, challenging the relevance of traditional norms of tragedy to production of Renaissance drama. The stress shifts to plays’ counter-movements to tragic tones, and to scripts’ contrasting positive factors to common downbeat interpretations – such as the role of humor in King Lear and the significance of residual leadership in the tragedies as seen in the roles of Malcolm, Edgar, Cassio, and Octavius, as well as the broader progressions in such continuities as those within Shakespeare’s Roman world from Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra to Cymbeline. It becomes apparent that the authority of the spectator in such Shakespearean titles as What You Will and As You Like It may bear meaningfully on interpretation of more plays than just the comedies.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Appendix II

Extract



The following two discussions illustrate the dimensions of the critical formulations discussed in the current study, defining key concepts available for playwrights in Shakespeare’s time. On the one hand we find the Aristotelian conventions based on the Poetics, hardening into the principles of Neo-Classicism and the Doctrine of the Unities of Time, Place, and Action, as seen in Sidney’s solemn treatise, with its resistance to theatrical practice. On the other we find Lope de Vega playfully rejecting the relevance of academic theory to the commercial practices imposed on popular playwrights by their spectators’ expectations. It seems regrettable in terms of appreciating the forces governing Shakespeare’s scripts that the amateur Sidney’s views still occupy an authoritative position in Renaissance drama studies, while those of the professional Lope de Vega are barely recognized.

A.Sir Philip Sidney: From An Apologie for Poetrie (1595)

Our tragedies and comedies, not without cause, are cried out against, observing rules neither of honest civility nor skilful poetry. Excepting Gorboduc (again I say of those that I have seen), which notwithstanding, as it is full of stately speeches, and well- sounding phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca his style, and as full of notable morality, which it does most delightfully teach, and so obtain the very ← 179 | 180 → end of poesy; yet, in truth, it is very defectuous in the circumstances, which grieves me, because it might not remain as an exact model of all tragedies. For it is faulty both...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.