Chapter 5
TRAGEDY

THE notion of Fletcher writing tragedy is difficult to entertain. In tragedy, as we have come to understand it, the hero is basically Everyman, confronting a situation which images common experience. The story of Oedipus is more obviously violent and striking than the stories of most of us, yet it is our common lot to wrong our progenitors, to have our purposes reversed, and to arrive at a blinding consciousness of our own guilt. Hamlet's inhibition, Othello's jealousy, Macbeth's steeling himself against scruple, are conditions of the mind that we recognise as familiar, just as we share the guilt and the aspiration of Hardy's Tess or Conrad's Nostromo or Melville's Captain Ahab. Aspiration as well as guilt, for these heroic figures have a sense of a good just outside human reach as well as a sense of their own failing. Certainly in tragic writing the characters are conceived on a more extensive scale, are presented in a grander manner, than we find in our experience of human beings of our everyday acquaintance. 'Better than we are' is how Aristotle described the figures of Greek tragedy and epic.1 Yet their situations and their responses, though respectively more extreme and more exalted than the common, remain images of what we know to exist in our own lives. Fletcher's dramatic method, on the other hand, we have seen as concerned, not with the central, but with the peripheral things in human experience. Certainly we can learn a great deal from his exploration of the periphery, for our understand

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1
The Poetics, Chapter II.

-108-

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The John Fletcher Plays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter 1 - The Problem Of Approach 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Dramatic Mode Of John Fletcher 24
  • Chapter 3 - Comedy 48
  • Chapter 4 - Tragicomedy 77
  • Chapter 5 - Tragedy 108
  • Chapter 6 - Fletcher And Shakespeare 144
  • Appendix 169
  • Index 175
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