Induction to Tragedy: A Study in a Development of Form in Gorboduc, the Spanish Tragedy and Titus Andronicus


To describe in historical terms some of the formal elements in that art which we call Elizabethan tragedy is the general objective of this book. I expect, and am prepared to respect, an immediate denial that Elizabethan tragedy has a form definite enough to support generalization. But we do talk about "Elizabethan tragedy," and when we do so we must have, whatever our reservations may be, some fairly definite form in mind. How definite it is at the beginning of Shakespeare's career, or how definite it ought to be in our minds, where it came from, what were the processes of its development--these are our main problems.

Tragic form, I take it, can be looked at from two important angles--from the angle of craftsmanship or technique and from the angle of ethical or moral significance. Technique, in turn, can be divided up into a number of lesser masteries, such as for instance the masteries over the medium of expression, over plot, over construction, and over character. Moral significance, in its turn, though it is scarcely reducible to a variety of simpler terms, at least can be detected on various levels of simplicity and complexity, ranging from out-and-out sensationalism or pure didacticism . . .


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