The Shakespearian Tempest: With a Chart of Shakespeare's Dramatic Universe

By G. Wilson Knight | Go to book overview

IV
THE TRAGEDIES

I

FROM the tempestuous welter of Shakespeare's earlier work in history or tragedy we find born from time to time the vague image of the soul's Siren delight. The romantic Comedies are set in another world than the Histories: they are dreamland itself. In them the poet, taking his dreamland as actuality, yet silhouettes his theme against the tempests of discord and division. Tempests are active between fairyland and actuality: which relation is vivid in A Midsummer Night's Dream. But in the latter half of Shakespeare's work a change occurs. Tempests begin to assume a new and powerful significance. They are vividly present, at the very core of the play's action. In the Histories tempests are powerfully related to the turbulences of actual life, but they are for the most part confined to imagery. In the Romances they are, in relation to the several plots, often actualized; but those plots themselves are less close-twined with realism, and the tempests, actual though they be, remain in the background. In the great Tragedies, however, the tempest becomes often the very heart of the organism. The poet makes his recurrent intuition of discord the centre of his action: exactly, minutely, he now penetrates into the metaphysic of disorder, expressing in a series of tragedies different facets of this one theme. We begin to see clearly how this tempest is a tragedy-symbol: it is often so perfectly embodied in a human plot that its significance is crystal clear. And, opposed to tempests, we have music, suggesting love and concord. Next I shall therefore glance shortly at the plays of this period, grouping them rather in order of convenience than composition, and noting first the two problem plays, Troilus, and Measure for Measure; and next Hamlet. In these plays tempests are

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The Shakespearian Tempest: With a Chart of Shakespeare's Dramatic Universe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Prefatory Note vii
  • Contents *
  • I Introduction 1
  • II The Histories, Early Tragedies, and Poems 20
  • III The Romantic Comedies 75
  • IV The Tragedies 169
  • V The Final Plays 218
  • VI Conclusion 267
  • Appendix A The Shakespearian Aviary 293
  • Appendix B The 'Hecate' Scenes in Macbeth 326
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