In Dr. Frye's view, three general types can be distinguished in Shakespearean tragedy, the tragedy of order, the tragedy of passion, and the tragedy of isolation, in all of which a pattern of "being in time" shapes the action. In the first type, of which Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and Hamlet are examples, a strong ruler is killed, replaced by a rebel-figure, and avenged by a nemesis-figure; in the second, represented by Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Troilus and Cressida, authority is split and the hero is destroyed by a conflict between social and personal loyalties; and in the third, Othello, King Lear, and Timon of Athens, the central figure is cut off from his world, largely as a result of his failure to comprehend the dynamics of that world. What all these plays show us, Dr. Frye maintains, is "the impact of heroic energy on the human situation" with the result that the "heroic is normally destroyed ... and the human situation goes on surviving."
Fools of Time will be welcomed not only by many scholars who are familiar with Dr. Frye's keen critical insight but also by undergraduates, graduates, high-school and university teachers who have long valued his work as a means toward a firmer grasp and deeper understanding of English literature.
Mr. Heilman argues that Othello is at once "a play about love" and "a poem about love," and endeavors to find out how the poetry modifies and even helps determine the nature of the whole. He looks at numerous aspects of "action" (physical activity, psychological movement, intellectual operations) and "language" (speech habits, image types, recurrency in both literal and figurative language), and examines the essentially "dramatic" function of all of these. He finds the dramatis personae interwoven in relationships which may be seen, from one point of view, as "plot" and, from another, as the embodiment of complex themes. He treats Othello and Iago as figures that are not only fitted to a given stage but also represent permanent aspects of humanity-Iago with his "strategies against the spiritual order" and Othello with his "readiness in the victim."
Professor Aldus hopes to enlarge our understanding of Hamlet and our appreciation of Shakespeare as a conscious artist of great subtlety by studying the play’s dramatic structure in the light of Aristotle’s Poetics and its meaning as literary myth in the light of Plato’s Phaedrus. This is a study of Hamlet as literary myth, a figurative mode of art in which structure is basic; yet primal myth, myth in the larger, non-literary sense, becomes part of it too, because the substance of Hamlet seems to be of this kind.
Professor Aldus’s reading of Hamlet is both radically new and decidedly provocative. A great deal of very careful inquiry has gone into the unearthing of connections which at first sight often seem improbable and tenuous, but which, one comes to find, have an illuminating total unity. Future commentators may not accept all that Professor Aldus has to say about, for example, Ophelia’s crown of flowers, but they will hardly be able to ignore it.
Foreman sees in the variety of tragic endings of the plays evidence that Shakespeare consciously experimented with tragic forms, for when he repeated he also changed, and changed more than superficially. Further, Foreman believes that these varieties and extensions of dramatic form were fundamentally a way of experiencing a various, often mysterious world. Extending and exploring the possibilities of tragic form, the playwright created dramatic worlds that mirror the possibilities of our own.
Among the tragedies, Foreman finds three -- Hamlet, King Lear, and Antony and Cleopatra -- that are more complex than the rest. He devotes the three final chapters of his book to the closing scenes of these plays and his readings of them are richly rewarding, giving new insights into Hamlet's acceptance of death, Lear's isolation in a moral storm, and Cleopatra's triumphant staging of her own death.
(The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare, 9789380914831)