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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist and his Contributions to English Literature

Little is known definitely about Shakespeare one of the greatest names in the dramatic literature of all times.  So far as his biography is concerned,  everything seems to have been shrouded in a mystery. Nothing is clearly known about his childhood,  school-life and early occupation and, in fact,  people are more or less in an atmosphere of guess-work about his life and activity.  Nothing more than a probable account can be constructed about his life story out of some occasional flashes of history here and there.  There is, however,  no controversy about the uniqueness of his creative art - of the unsurpassable excellence of his plays and poems.
Shakespeare as a dramatic artist

Grouping of Shakespeare's Plays and Poems

Shakespearean scholars are now in general agreement that the twenty-four years of his literary activities distinctly lead to the division of his  creative art into four successive periods . But the assignment of precise dates to these periods has not quite unanimous.  Keeping in view the greatest common measure of agreement on this point , perhaps,  the period of Shakespeare's career as a dramatic may be divided into the following four periods:

  • The First Period(1588-1595): During this period, better termed as the preparatory period, Shakespeare,  with his youthful exuberance , tried his hand at every form of dramatic literature -history,  Comedy,  or, tragedy)"He was still a sort of playboy in the art of writing ,"and much under the domination of the great men in his calling.  To This period belong the Henry VI plays , written n collaboration with another playwright , Richard III and Richard II, both inspired by Marlowe , Titus Andronicus , "a rather rickety,  undergraduate effort," A Comedy of Errors, " a rowdy farce comedy, " Love's Labour's Lost , "a rollicking farce, " Two Gentleman of Verona , a comedy of manners , also belong to this period.  The only tragedy Titus Andronicus ofbthis period has been characterized  as"essentially found lacking the breath of vision and profundity of thought of his later tragedies . But to this period also belongs  A Midsummer Night's Dream , which is"one of the most (if not the most) elfin and charming exercises of the imagination , even visualized  on the stage."
  • The Second Period (1595-1601):This is a period marked by the absence of tragedy , and is, therefore, often called the Comic Period. To it belong his greatest comedies and historical plays . The Taming of the Shrew and The Merry Wives of Windsor cast , no doubt, in the early farcical vein , bear the unmistakable impress of a maturer hand.  On a higher plane of wit rests Much Ado about Nothing , while in As You Like It and Twelfth Night "humour and romance blend in perfect proportion ." The Merchant of Venice,  in spite of its puerile story, is a tragic-comedy that stands apart from Shakespeare's other plays. King John is the first of the historical plays that show that Shakespeare is no longer under the tutelage of the earlier master's,  but has now found himself.  of the other historical plays of this period, the Henry IV plays are alive with his sense of humour and psychological power, while the rather more showy Henry V has been aptly described as a 'National Anthem in five Acts" Shakespeare's poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucree also belong to this period.
  • The Third Period (1601-1608): This is pre-eminently the Tragic Period. Even the comedies of this period,  such as All's well that Ends Well, Troilus and Cressida and Measure for Measure,  though rich in poetry, are "tragedies set in a key of forced comedy ." All the four great tragedies - Hamlet, Othello,  King Lear and Macbeth -besides the Roman play , Julius Caesar (also a tragedy) ,and the other lesser tragedy , Timon of Athens,  belong to his period . It is now that Shakespeare is seen at the height of his dramatic power.
  • The Fourth Period (1608-1612):Though  the last period opens with tragedy in Antony and Cleopatra , which is followed by Coriolanus,  another tragedy, they are not generally taken to be the representative productions of this period.  Coriolanus is definitely inferior in quality , while Antony and Cleopatra, though quite mature in point of characterization,  is weaker in the dramatic power . In the eventide of his career he turned again to "his first love, Romance ". A new mood of optimism,  of satisfaction in the fact and sight of young and tender love comes into Pericles and continues through Cymbeline, A winter's Tale and The Tempest. The only real historical play of this period,  Henry VIII, is , Perhaps , Shakespearean only in parts.Shakespeare's immortal Sonnets , through written long before at different times , were published in 1609.

Shakespeare's Dramatic Artist

As a dramatic,  Shakespeare is, perhaps , second to none . His plays cast a spell,  and victory and triumph are inseparably connected in his unique craftsmanship. His masterly drawn situations,  life-like characters and enchanting poetry capture all hearts , old and young .His plays have stood the test of time and still remained the dearest friends to men . As the wonderful creations of a great art, their appeal and effect are universal . The most striking peculiarity of Shakespeare's dramatic genius is its university . There is no dramatic , who has touched , with so much ease and profundity , the inmost depth of all human hearts. "A true poet is always our contemporary ." Shakespeare is a true poet.  He belongs to no particular age. He is with all times and with all peoples.  The appeal of his plays has the same moving effect on all minds , ancient or modern.  Indeed , the greatness of his play lies in this university of his appeal,  which is meant for all ages,  colours and creeds .

This universality of Shakespeare's appeal remarkably comes out in his power of characterisation.  The secret of the human heart is nowhere studied with so much sincerity and accuracy . With a wonderful mastery,  he has revealed the dark corridors of the human mind. He has created characters that have corridors of the human mind . He has created characters that have stood the wreck of time and remained immortal endearing.

Of course , Shakespeare's characters are not the protagonists of some abstract faith or idea . They are real men and women. They have their own individuality and peculiarity.  His Cleopatra is distinctly an individual women. His Othello represents an individual soul, tormented with the supposed betrayed of his trust.  His Shylock is,  no doubt, a representative of the oppressed Jew in the middle ages. But Shakespeare's Jew has an individuality of his own, which no racial or religious prejudice can ever wipe out.

Shakespeare , as a dramatic artist , is without any parallel.  In him is found a master craftsman,  who can weave different threads into one fine texture. His plots are often borrowed.  But his situations are his own.  He is found to have marvellously brought together his characters and situations to create the plays that no generation can forget.

Shakespeare is a playwright . But he is a poet,  too. It is the perfect blending of the playwright and the poet in him the that made the Shakespearean genius so remarkable . The charm of his poetry is irresistible, Feeling are roused and thoughts supplied by the exquisite melody of his blank verse. The literary genius of Shakespeare , however,  seems a great riddle,  it is so vast,  comprehensive and profound that nothing has yet been exactly scrutinised  and analysed about it . In fact, the secret of his dramatic genius has remained yet unknown.  This has stood as an imperishable beauty in the world of art.  Indeed, age cannot wear out nor customs stale his infinite variety.

That Shakespeare's  relevance is universal requires no particular evidence or emphasis . That he is read,  seriously and eagerly,  even more than four hundred years after his birth,  by the people of distant lands and diverse accents, testifies enough to his unabridged university .

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