Design and Closure in Shakespeare's Major Plays: The Nature of Recapitulation

Design and Closure in Shakespeare's Major Plays: The Nature of Recapitulation

Design and Closure in Shakespeare's Major Plays: The Nature of Recapitulation

Design and Closure in Shakespeare's Major Plays: The Nature of Recapitulation

Synopsis

Shakespeare must be studied in order to be understood: explication precedes appreciation. This incisive study of Shakespeare's greatest plays concentrates on those strategies of design and closure that serve Shakespeare's intention and meaning. The examination of recapitulation, the quintessential feature of Shakespeare's art, reveals Shakespeare's dramatic thought in all its complexity. The ultimate value of this study is that it enables us to appreciate, not just the individual plays, but the shape and significance of the Shakespeare canon.

Excerpt

Design and Closure in Shakespeare's Major Plays is made up of a series of essays on thirteen plays: two histories (Richard II, Henry, IV, 1); four comedies (Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure); five tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra); two romances (The Winter's Tale, The Tempest). In this study I am primarily concerned with the meaning, rather than with the significance, of individual texts; but, since, as Eliot has observed, the meaning cannot be divorced from the significance of such a complex, human document as, for instance, Hamlet is, I have tried to be careful and circumspect in my discussions. I have tried to identify principles and strategies of design and closure and then to demonstrate how and why these principles and strategies reveal Shakespeare's intention and meaning. But insofar as I have tried to address what the plays say and mean and insofar as I am concerned with what may be called Shakespeare's poetic ideas, I may be perceived as a kind of revisionist.

I have tried to make each essay self-sufficient; I have tried to address each play on its own terms. I have tried to demonstrate that a Shakespeare play may also be considered as being part of a larger unit, a tetralogy, something like a tetralogy, something like a trilogy. If a play is part of a larger project, closure is to some extent determined by the nature of the project. At the very least As You Like It illuminates Twelfth Night; The Winter's Tale clarifies The Tempest. I do make cross-references, and I draw parallels and point out similarities, and, as the study progresses, I try to make clear what I take to be the nature of a Shakespeare play as well as the nature of the Shakespeare achievement. As Eliot would advise, I have attempted to use common words without vulgarity and to use sophisticated words with precision and without pedantry. I

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