Elizabethan Drama and Shakespeare's Early Plays: An Essay in Historical Criticism

By Ernest William Talbert | Go to book overview

III

Aspects of Structure and Serious
Character-Types

WHEN IN SERIOUS circumstances a relatively few types of character appear, dramatic patterns may emerge in a portion of a drama or throughout an entire play. Although one should assume that an audience's conscious awareness of these patterns might be slight, yet ideas about rulers could accord easily with certain narrative developments. So, too, could concepts of honor, ambition, fortitude, the nature of law, and the law of nature. Developments resulting from situations that appeared frequently upon the stage might also lead to a portrayal capable of being typed simply because of that recurrence. As a consequence, the relationship between certain types of characters and recurring dramatic movements, especially when it can be indicated by logical and historical considerations alone, indicates formative elements in the dramatic artistry of the period. Both actor and theater-goer might come to expect these developments, and for the author they might constitute one of the means whereby he controlled at least a portion of his material.

As was true for the discussion in the preceding chapter, what is pointed out here seems to illumine features of Shakespeare's artistry and that of other Elizabethan playwrights. In contrast with the previous discussion, however, Shakespeare's plays will be considered in subsequent chapters; for here we are concerned usually with entire dramas, a number of which will be examined in some detail after the nature of the preceding relationship between types of character and structure has been outlined. What is written here, of course, is not meant to be a complete survey of serious types of character. Attention will be focused, instead, upon certain typical figures who appear in tragedies and histories and whose representation might involve some five to seven developments that could accord with concepts about rule or about the actions of individuals of high degree. In some instances, those patterns also correspond with the structural processes found in earlier dramatic

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Elizabethan Drama and Shakespeare's Early Plays: An Essay in Historical Criticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents *
  • I - Some General Considerations 3
  • II - Aspects of the Comic 7
  • III - Aspects of Structure and Serious Character-Types 61
  • IV - Titus and the Earliest Comedies 132
  • V - The Henry VI Trilogy and Richard III 161
  • VI - Love's Labour's Lost and a Midsummer Night's Dream 235
  • VII - King John, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II 262
  • VIII - Conclusion 323
  • Notes 327
  • Index 401
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