Notes of Shakespearean Literature

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  • Created on: 30-04-13 21:07
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Shakespeare's Literature
"The Shakespeare histories share a number of common features... Set against Medieval English
history... Not historically accurate... Provides social commentary... Explores the social structure of the
"The history play lacks such clear generic markers. The 1623 Folio lists Shakespeare's histories
between the comedies and the tragedies, ordered by historical chronology: King John, Richard II,
the two parts of Henry IV, and Henry V come before the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III,
which were written earlier, with Henry VIII coming last. Even in Shakespeare's time, it was easier to
recognize the history play than to define it."
"The history play arose at a time when the sense of nationhood was crystallizing in England as in
other European states, part of a heightened interest in earlier times that took in chronicles, ballads,
and pamphlets as well. Elizabethans looked to events and figures from those times--not only kings
and their battles but country squires, folk heroes, and common soldiers with their different activities
and perspectives--to anchor the corporate English identity they were newly defining. In a more
focused way, playwrights might dramatize through the Plantagenets current political forces both
conservative and radical. Certainly some issues of the history plays were current concerns as well:
religious factionalism threatened Elizabethan society as well as that of the Wars of the Roses,
powerful nobles still challenged central monarchic rule, and conflicts over the succession to the
throne had particular resonance in a land ruled by an aging childless queen."
"A Shakespearean tragedy is the polar opposite of a comedy; it "...exemplifies the sense that human
beings are inevitably doomed through their own failures or errors, or even the ironic action of their
virtues, or through the nature of fate, destiny, or the human condition to suffer, fail, and die...." In
other words, it is a drama with an unhappy ending."
The essence of Shakespeare's tragedies is the expression of one of the great paradoxes of life. We
might call it the paradox of disappointment. Defeat, shattered hopes, and ultimately death face us all
as human beings. They are very real, but somehow we have the intuitive feeling that they are out of
place. They seem to be intruders into life. Tragic literature confronts us afresh with this paradox and

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""In medieval times, the word 'comedy' was applied to non-dramatic literary works marked by a
happy ending and a less exalted style than in [its polar opposite] tragedy." In other words, a
Shakespearean Comedy is a more light-hearted play that has a happy ending."
"What defines a Shakespearean comedy is a light touch, a happy ending, and a wedding, though
these plays also contain farce and slapstick.…read more


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