Coming-To-Know: Recognition and the Complex Plot in Shakespeare

Coming-To-Know: Recognition and the Complex Plot in Shakespeare

Coming-To-Know: Recognition and the Complex Plot in Shakespeare

Coming-To-Know: Recognition and the Complex Plot in Shakespeare

Synopsis

"While there is no reason to think that Shakespeare was acquainted with Aristotle's Poetics, a surprisingly large number of his plays display a feature that Aristotle insisted was of paramount importance in creating dramatic plots of the highest order. He called this feature anagnorisis, which is usually rendered into English as either "recognition" or "discovery." Although frequently identified by modern literary critics with self-knowledge or self-awareness, it may be legitimately applied to a wide range of formal as well as thematic considerations. This study adopts Aristotle's anagnorisis as an analytical tool that isolates recurring features of Shakespeare's plays and explores their artistic function and significance. As it happens, 15 of the 18 plays customarily classified as comedies or romances make a sufficiently conspicuous use of the device to warrant the label "recognition" play, and these constitute the special object of the present investigation." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

More than half of the eighteen plays from the Shakespeare canon customarily classified as “comedies” as opposed to “histories” or “tragedies” include a prominent Aristotelian anagnôrisis (“recognition” or “discovery”) in the restricted sense of that term proposed by Gerald F. Else in his monumental treatise Aristotle's Poetics: The Argument (352—53). According to Else, the ideal form of anagnôrisis Aristotle had in mind in his analysis of complex plots was one in which the object recognized or discovered is neither a general truth nor a particular fact but a living human person; and not just any living person but one closely related to the knowing subject by ties of blood (philia). That Aristotle regarded human persons as the best objects of literary recognitions is a familiar and uncontroversial position, but some of Else's further elaborations and specifications are more idiosyncratic. His explanation of Aristotle's philia as a close blood relationship (350), for example, goes against the common view that this term refers not to an objective condition like biological kinship but to more subjective forces like love and friendship. As Else points out, however, these are forces that normally but not always accompany close kinship relationships, and for that very reason their absence in any given instance contributes to the emotional impact that Aristotle is trying to account for in his treatment of tragedy. Marriage or spousal ties are not blood or kinship relationships and hence not philia as Else defines it, but they are probably close enough to count as such. At the very least they create a predisposition toward a personal relationship like love or friendship whose violation is capable of creating a special ar tistic effect.

More idiosyncratic and controversial is Else's insistence that the recognition of person central to Aristotle's anagnôrisis not be assimilated to the more spiritual or metaphysical meanings that frequently cluster around the Delphic maxim Nosce teipsum and the ideal of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.