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

By Ernest William Talbert | Go to book overview

VIII

Conclusion

IN THE PRECEDING chapters, Shakespeare's technique and his artistic intent in writing his early plays have been examined in the light of the probable expectations of contemporary theater-goers and their possible familiarity with current concepts, current representational methods, and current features of the Elizabethan scene. Folk merriment and Elizabethan mirth illumine both the form and the intent of scenes in the drama; and no playwright utilized this background, and the probable expectations arising from it, more skillfully than did Shakespeare. Even Love's Labour's Lost, the most Lylyesque of his plays, constantly strikes notes that could have been comically familiar to uneducated Elizazabethans who attended a theater infrequently. The same is true of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Shakespeare's portrayal of Thurio and the introduction of Faulconbridge show a similarly sure comic touch. As one might expect, Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists also worked with comic motifs and techniques already established upon the stage, and some of the most mature comedy in Falstaff's scenes continues the early practice of Shakespeare, especially when he creates a nonderisive, free laughter. As is apparent also in the scenes devoted to Cade and his rebellion, Shakespeare's use of conventionally comic motifs and representational methods demonstrates a true originality.

Some four to seven structural movements that usually were associated with certain serious types of character also illumine Shakespeare's method and purpose in writing his early plays. When analyzed in accordance with their basic structural movement, dramas by Kyd, Marlowe, Greene, and others provide a background for examining Shakespeare's artistry in his early tragedies and histories and for considering, among other things, the structure of his plays written earlier than 1596. In this respect, all but one of Marlowe's dramas have been considered in greater or less detail. Their spectacular artistry is unique. Like the majority of the non-Shakespearian plays here analyzed, they also reveal an artistic conscientiousness comparable to what one

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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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