Каминяр Дмитрий Генаддьевич: другие произведения.

The combination of tragedy and comedy in Shakespeare's later plays

"Самиздат": [Регистрация] [Найти] [Рейтинги] [Обсуждения] [Новинки] [Обзоры] [Помощь|Техвопросы]
Конкурсы романов на Author.Today
Творчество как воздух: VK, Telegram
 Ваша оценка:

   Dmitri Kaminiar
   J. Riebetanz

The combination of tragedy and comedy in Shakespeare's later plays

   Throughout his long and illustrious career as a playwright, William Shakespeare was marked by a rather frivolous attitude to time and by his preference of intermixing tragic and comic elements in his plays. His later plays, such as The Winter's Tale and The Tempest usually tend to defy description as `tragedy' or `comedy', and are usually defined as `tragicomedies' instead. This essay will show how Shakespeare how the two plays and their intermixture of tragedy and comedy compare to each other, and why they are so different.
   To begin, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest are similar in that they both have an intertwining of tragedy and comedy, and both of these genres - contrary to the opinion of the author of Defence of Poesy - serve to emphasize the qualities of each other, regardless of the above-mentioned differences. Both plays deal with young love and with irritable old fathers who tend to obstruct their relationship (a ploy dating from AMND in Shakespeare's plays), another comic device. The Winter's Tale and The Tempest are tragicomedies instead of being comedies, because Shakespeare is writing about a comic subject, but it is not the only one. Aside from the comic angle, there are also power struggles when it comes to matters of family and of state.
   Leontes' troubles in The Winter's Tale arise when he begins to feel threatened by Hermione's success with Polixenes. His tragicomic rants about "Sir Smile, his neighbour" are derived from genuine emotions, one that the male members of the play's audience may have experienced themselves during one or another period in their lives, and can sympathize to, or at least understand Leontes' misfortune. Regardless of that, however, what Leontes does is monstrous - but also realistic. As Shakespeare showed in Othello, a jealous husband can become tragic as easily as comic; Leontes' main difference from Othello is the greater realism and consequently the lesser tragic scale of The Winter's Tale: Leontes does not inflict any direct harm on anybody (indirect harm that derives from his actions is a different matter), unlike Othello, even though he tries.
   On the other hand, the intermixture of tragedy and comedy in The Winter's Tale also undercuts Leontes as well. Leontes' court (primarily Paulina) is defiant, if not disrespectful to him - and that is also a part of the play's realism: a jealous husband may not be liked, but he is understood; the tragedy of the first three acts of The Winter's Tale is that Leontes cannot be dealt with because he is the king of Sicily after all and thus is allowed free reign, all arguments aside. The only one who can control him is Shakespeare; basically, as the bard ensures that the baby Perdita survives her snowbound landing on the shores of Bohemia, and the speech of the Old Shepherd leaves no doubt that there comes a shift in the play... a shift that has no influence on the play's tragicomic intertwining: Act IV, scene 4, 2346-64 (Polixenes' speech) shows that in the world of the play comedy (or rather romance - the romance of Florizel and Perdita) can very easily turn to tragedy, and tragedy to comedy (largely by the efforts of Autolycus). Both of these tendencies, however, tend to transform to drama (or even melodrama) within the play - the final act of The Winter's Tale, with its magical transformation, manipulative Paulina and the political (though also loving) union of Perdita and Florizel are neither tragic nor comic, they are merely happy, and also reasonably realistic.
   From the beginning of his career, Shakespeare was attempting to make his plays tragicomic. In the history play King Henry IV, Part One, he alternated between comic and tragic scenes, especially in acts II and III. In the comedy play Twelfth Night, in Act III, scenes 4, comedy and tragedy practically follow one another; or rather they follow the characters, quite in the opinion Defence of Poesy, who claims that tragicomedies were distasteful, because they interject high and low drama, kings and knaves, and so on. The Winter's Tale, as was seen above, had actually perfected that technique and so had The Tempest.
   However, unlike The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare started to intermix tragedy and comedy straightaway. Act I, scene 1 of that play is a classic example of high and low characters' interactions. Gonzalo, Alonso and the others do their best to be polite to the boatswain, who is openly crude, disrespectful - but definitely not tragic. The boatswain's practical and direct talk undercuts the more elaborate speeches of Alonso and his courtiers, temporarily transforming the shipwreck from tragic to almost comic, ending with Gonzalo's rather wry speech that he would rather die on land than on sea - and there's hardly a truly tragic note in it. Rather, it is full of realism and... of optimism: the boatswain shall not be drowned because he is destined for a hanging, and so his luck will keep our whole ship afloat! (I.1. 9-56)
   And this sort of affairs continues on in the next scene of Act I, when Prospero tells Miranda about their past in Milan (I.2. 152-235). That, however, is undercut by Ariel, who, as a magical creature, undercuts the realism of the play. Yet while Ariel's lines are not as comic as Autolycus' in The Winter's Tale, they also actually reveal to the audience that there was no shipwreck, and everybody's alive, albeit asleep. Unlike The Winter's Tale, which intermixes tragic and comic directly, not unlike how it happened in Twelfth Night, The Tempest seems to be more realistic, less tragicomic. Moreover, unlike The Winter's Tale, this play is clearly metatheatrical; essentially, it is a series of plays within a play, all managed by one and the same stage director, Prospero. Consequently, unlike The Winter's Tale, where both tragedy and comedy are combined with a raw, or a natural, feel, the entirety of The Tempest appears to be neither comic nor tragic nor realistic, but rather emotionally detached from it all, mainly because of Prospero's rationalistic and reason-driven attitude and his usage of magic with the assistance of Ariel. Consequently, by the tragicomedy's standards the beginning of The Tempest feels more comic than tragic. Only when the unreasonable - animalistic, passion-driven - Caliban appears in the play for the first time, do the tragic elements re-appear, sort of. The attempted rape of Miranda by Caliban was attempted, not executed, after all, and Prospero's magical power make it almost impossible to take Caliban (and later his allies) as a serious threat, no more than he cares about Antonio and Sebastian, for example. The latter, of course, also bring tragic elements into the play, by having dethroned Prospero and attempting to kill Alonso. It should be noted, though, that initially Ariel saves Alonso because Prospero has plans involving him, not from mere goodness of his heart.
   The other difference between The Tempest and The Winter's Tale, in regards to comedy and tragedy, is that the role of Prospero's magic in The Tempest, is taken over by various characters in The Winter's Tale, starting with Paulina in the first acts. Throughout the play, she, the Old Shepherd and his son, and especially Autolycus the rogue constantly undercut the tragic action of The Winter's Tale, by refusing to be tragic, to cow. Leontes, in the first three acts of The Winter's Tale does his best to appear a tragic character as Lear was in his play, including having a flawed character, in this case unreasonable jealousy. However, the circumstances frustrate and prevent Leontes from achieving that status: his speeches lack Lear's power and fire, and so does Leontes himself, for his courtiers openly argue, if not downright defy him - they are not cowed as Lear's courtiers were by Lear, they actively argue with him, and even resist Leontes to a point. Leontes' madness is dangerous, but Lear's was destructive, and that is one of the reasons why the tragic elements in King Lear are much more powerful than in The Winter's Tale.
   In The Tempest however, the role of Paulina, Autolycus, etc. was taken over by Prospero's magic and by extension by Prospero himself, whose character is not particularly tragic or comic. In Act IV of the play, when he is confronting his brother, King Alonso and others, he is dramatic, but, at the same time, he is not vengeful or cruel (especially without Caliban around to bring out the worst in Prospero). As a consequence, The Tempest reflects those personality traits of Prospero, and everything else - Caliban's malice, Stephano's potential for drunken cruelty, Alonso's treachery - becomes subdued to Prospero because of Prospero's magical might - even the love of Ferdinand and Miranda. Theirs is a joyous wedding, but there is no passion, so prominent in Anthony and Cleopatra, or even Twelfth Night: Prospero will not allow it. Without passion, there is no comedy (as there is in act IV of The Winter's Tale) and without comedy there is no tragedy (as in the first acts of The Winter's Tale). What remains is the romance of Miranda and Ferdinand and the restoration of Prospero to the dukedom of Milan. However, because these achievements are still within Prospero's "shadow" in a manner of speaking, even the happiness derived from these elements of a happy end is subdued, as Prospero's impromptu epilogue casts a pall of gloom over them.
   Accordingly, then, it can be said in the conclusion that both plays of Shakespeare's utilize both tragedy within themselves, but while The Winter's Tale adheres to realism (excluding the end of the play, when Hermione comes back to life), The Tempest does not. Instead, tragedy, comedy and romance are submerged in the sea of theatrical fakery, for the lack of a better word, and the whole play suffers in the realism department. This results in it being a play that is completely different from The Winter's Tale.
   This essay attempted to show how The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, two of Shakespeare's last plays utilize comedy and tragedy in very similar styles and why these two plays are different. Hopefully, it had succeeded in doing that.
 Ваша оценка:

Связаться с программистом сайта.

Новые книги авторов СИ, вышедшие из печати:
Э.Бланк "Пленница чужого мира" О.Копылова "Невеста звездного принца" А.Позин "Меч Тамерлана.Крестьянский сын,дворянская дочь"

Как попасть в этoт список
Сайт - "Художники" .. || .. Доска об'явлений "Книги"