The Construction of Shakespeare's Tragedies.

Essay by sophia_lispectator December 2005

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Any tragedy conceived as a conflict which terminates in a catastrophe may roughly be divided into three parts:

1. The first part expounds the situation i.e. it is the Exposition.

2. The second part deals with the definite beginning, the growth and the vicissitudes of the Conflict.

3. The third part shows the issue of the conflict in a Catastrophe.

1. The main business of the Exposition is to usher us into the world of the characters, show us perhaps some of their personal traits and to leave us keenly interested in what will come out of this condition of things. This condition is not the one of conflict but it threatens conflict.

The dramatist's chief difficulty with the Exposition is the fact that he has to impart to the audience a quantity of information but in an interesting way. The process of acquiring information is generally boring if presented in an undramatic way.

So as to produce this effect, Shakespeare uses not only speeches but actions and events as well. It is necessary that from the very beginning things are happening in an arresting, startling and exciting manner so that we master the situation without the feeling that we have been fed a quantity of information.

So as to achieve this effect, Shakespeare usually starts with a short scene either full of stir or in some other way arresting. Then having secured hearing he moves on to conversations at lower pitch without much action so as to convey the info. The opening of Macbeth is the best example since there is no parallel to the scene in which the senses and imagination are assailed by a storm of thunder and supernatural alarm. This scene is only eleven lines long but its influence is so big that the next can...