Gustav Freytag was a 19th century literary critic (1863) who proposed that Shakespeare’s plays (all of which are divided into 5 major sections, called acts) follow this plan as regards the development of their plots. Freytag’s Pyramid III. climax rising action falling action IV. II. resolution complication V. I. conclusion exposition
The Elizabethan Era/1500-1600AD • Concurrent with the Renaissance (continental Europe – France, the Netherlands, Italy). • The beginning of England’s 350-year-long position as the world’s only economic, political, and military superpower. • The time period is named after Elizabeth I, queen from 1558-1603. Shakespeare was a contemporary of Elizabeth I. He lived from 1564-1616.
Shakespeare wrote 38 plays Tragedies Comedies Histories Macbeth The Merchant of Venice Henry IV Hamlet Much Ado About Nothing Richard II King Lear Twelfth Night Richard III All end with the All end with at least one Biographies (not death of the main couple getting married always 100% his- character, the tragic torically accurate) hero Almost all feature a rude, of important kings clownish figure, called a of England Almost all feature the “rustic” appearance of a ghost
NATURAL ORDER • Elizabethans (those who lived in England under the rule of Elizabeth I) believed strongly in natural order. • This belief system governed personal health, politics, agriculture and religion. • Any perversion of natural order would have dire natural and supernatural consequences that would not abate until natural balance was restored. In Shakespearean tragedies, this requires the death of the person who disrupted the natural order in the first place (i.e. the tragic hero).
Aristotelian Tragedy Named after Aristotle, a Greek philosopher who said that all tragedies must have these characteristics: 1. A man of high social standing… 2. …experiences a downfall… 3. …because of a flaw in his otherwise perfect character. The flaw is revealed only as a result of the tragic action of the narrative.
Shakespearean Tragedy Shakespearean tragedy is essentially the same as Aristotelian tragedy with these two changes: • The tragic hero must die. This must happen (says Elizabethan philosophy) in order to restore the order that he (the tragic hero) perverted. • Instead of a physical illness experienced by an entire society that marks the overthrow of natural order (as in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, where Oedipus’ kingship results in a deadly and persistent plague), Elizabethan drama signals natural imbalance with the appearance of supernatural signs… The tragic hero may also manifest some symptoms of mental disturbance.