A lengthy description of Elizabethan Tragedy

A lengthy description of Elizabethan Tragedy:
                                                                     “Closely connected with the historical plays was the early development of Tragedy. But in the search for themes, the dramatists soon broke away from fact and the whole range of imaginative narrative also was searched for tragic subjects. While the work of Seneca accounts to some extent for the prevalence of such features as ghosts and the motive of revenge, the form of Tragedy that Shakespeare developed from the experiments of men like Marlowe and Kyd was really a new and distinct type. Such classical restrictions as the unities of place and time, and the complete separation of comedy and tragedy, were discarded, and there resulted a series of plays which, while often marked by lack of restraint, of regular form, of unity of tone, yet gave a picture of human life as affected by sin and suffering which in its richness, its variety, and its imaginative exuberance has never been equaled.”

“The greatest master of Tragedy was Shakespeare, and in Tragedy he reached his greatest height. Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth are among his finest productions, and they represent the noblest pitch of English genius. Of these, Hamlet was perhaps most popular at the time of its production, and it has held its interest and provoked discussion as perhaps no other play of any time or country has done.”

“This is in part due to the splendor of its poetry, the absorbing nature of the plot, and the vividness of the drawing of characters who marvelously combine individuality with a universal and typical quality that makes them appeal to people of all kinds and races. But much also is due to the delineation of the hero, the subtlety of whose character and the complexity of whose motives constitute a perpetual challenge to our capacity for solving mysteries. King Lear owes its appeal less to its tendency to rouse curiosity than to its power to awe us with an overwhelming spectacle of the suffering which folly and evil can cause and which human nature can sustain. In spite of, or perhaps because of, its intricacy of motive and superabundance of incident, it is the most overwhelming of all in its effect on our emotions. Compared with it, Macbeth is a simple play, but nowhere does one find a more masterly portrayal of the moral disaster that falls upon the man who, seeing the light, chooses the darkness.” 

“Though first, Shakespeare was by no means alone in the production of great tragedy. Contemporary with him or immediately following came Jonson, Marston, Middleton, Massinger, Ford, Shirley, and others, all producing brilliant work; but the man who most nearly approached him in tragic intensity was John Webster. The Duchess of Malfi is a favorable example of his ability to inspire terror and pity; and though his range is not comparable to that of Shakespeare, he is unsurpassed in his power of coining a phrase which casts a lurid light into the recesses of the human heart in moments of supreme passion.”

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