CHAPTER - IX CONCLUSION. Shakespeare's plays cannot be categorically classified. into tragedies and comediesin- strictly formal terms.

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1 CHAPTER - IX CONCLUSION Shakespeare's plays cannot be categorically classified into tragedies and comediesin- strictly formal terms. The comedies are not totally devoid of tragic elements while the tragedies have comic and farcial elements. The initial treacherous villainy of Oliver and the melancholic temperament ofjaques in As you like it are examples of the gloomier side of comedy. The Fool in King Lear who parodies the tragic predicament of Lear is an example of the comic shade of this tragedy. Consequently, in such plays, there is no unity in the usually accepted classical manner. Characters too, in the plays of Shakespeare cannot be classified according to the generic difference specially the Aristotlian concept as propounded in the Poetics. Aristotle's proposition - that comedy represnts men as worse than what they are in real life, while tragedy portrays noble actions of men who are above the common level, men better than they are in real life belonging to the class of a few noble families - does not apply to the plays of Shakespeare. Applying this principle to the plays of Shakespeare will not satisfactorily explain the characters or the action of the play. In Shakespeare, the characters of tragedies, comedies, histories and romances are of the same political and social status. Even the themes of tragedies, comedies, histories and romances, are the same. The themes of 328

2 Hamlet. As you like it, Richard III and The Tempest are essentially speaking the same, dealing with usurpation and murder. In the comedy and the romance, murder is refrained from while in Hamlet and Richard III murder is perpetrated to fulfil the selfish motives of the evil characters. Therefore, the action and the nature of the play is best understood in the light of the choice of action which the protagonist makes within the environment in which he happens to be placed. The action of the play is something of an explosion of the hero's freedom of choice with the consequences which follow as a natural corollary thereof. The nature and dynamism of the choice of the character depends on the ethos of the character reflecting in his action and will on the one hand and passion or reason on the other. Once the actor's ethos has manifested itself in the choice and action, the consequences ensue in accordance with the law of cause and effect. Therefore, rather than depending on the social status of the character, the outcome of all the plays depends on the minds and ethos of the individual characters, manifested in action. The quality of mind and its reflection in action is different in tragedies and comedies. One may say that Shakespearean genres are ethical genres classified on the basis of the ethos of the character, neither strictly Aristotelian, nor strictly formal. 329

3 In the tragedies the characters are passionate. The tragic protagonists perish while their will rerains. They stubbo'rhly insist on the fulfilment of their passionate will, They learn but from the moral consequences of their action. In the comedies reason overcomes passion and results in successful action. The characters mould their will to their reason or love, averting tragedy. While the tragedies act as crucibles for purging the characters of their passion, the comedies act as the sun-shine celebrating the joys of life. The histories are an extension of the tragic theme in a larger and national context. Bloodshed and usurpation result in the ruin and destruction of the evil leader and his nation. Restoration of the order is brought about by elimination of evil and success of the rightful leader. The national identity that was scarred by the rule of evil is again integrated by the succeeding benevolent and balanced ruler. Tn the romances one finds a sublimation of passions. A super-mind like Prospero has love, forgiveness and charity in great abundance. Through mercy he redeems the evil-doers. Evil is not eliminated and destroyed as in the tragedies and histories, it is reformed and redeemed. Ethical values triumph over material values. The passion, reason and will of the protagonist are in a state of balance. This does not only redeem the person himself but also helps in redeeming all those around him. The virtues of love, pity, charity and forgiveness, presented in these plays, provide an affirmation 330

4 of good and virtue in life, restoring the lost faith of man in God and himself. The Romances are symbolic of waking bliss and a philosophical calm that transcends ego-centric motives and conflicts. Consequently, it may be said that Shakespeare's dramatic career presents an organic view of human life from the one end of action to the other and from the beginning to the end of the active possibilities of living. Looking at the progressive development of the protagonist in the plays of Shakespeare, one can say that the theme of Shakespeare's plays is the creation of the super-mind symbolized by Prospero. He represents the culmination of the development of the mind to the stage of the super-mind. He endures the onslaught of the selfish passions of his brother, sublimates the passions in his own mind and finally redeems the evil characters through his mercy. Just as Adam at the end of Paradise Lost Book 12 emerges as a better and wiser human bing, so does Prospero also emerge wiser and better. The plays reflect the ethos of the characters, as it is and as it could or as it ought to be. The interaction between the characters and the environment, and the consequences thereof, point to the presiding spirit of the universe. A human being can be compared to a note in a musical composition. The symphony represents the society. Music symbolizes the ideal/ethical relationship of the individual 331

5 and the society. The society may be the family, the kingdom or general mankind. Each note participates contributively in the symphony. The symphony justifies the presence and value of each note. The note is a local realisation of the whole and the whole is not only an aggregate of the notes but also an entity which transcends the aggregate. If the, single note swerves from its position it affects the whole symphony. The balance may be upset by the excess of one element, just one note. The upsetting is abetted by other notes which are upset by excess like Goneril and Regan in King Lear. The balance is restored slowly. A new symphony emerges that may be different from what it would have been originally without the upsetting. But life goes on with upsettings, the repeated search for balance and the repeated forms of music. The metaphor of music and its ennobling effect on the mind of man forms a thematic pattern in the plays of Shakespeare. While disorder is presented by roaring tempests, harmony is symbolized by sweet music. With reference to King Lear,f-jamlet and A Midsummer Nights Dream it may be said that the "abnormal" states of mind, actual or contrived, also serve a definite ethical purpose. They reveal the realities of a life and nature which is higher and deeper than what is ordinarily accepted as the reality. That is how Lear voices great wisdom and learning during his abnormal states of mind. It also helps him in forgetting the agony caused by his ungrateful daughters. Hamlet's feigned 332

6 madness helps him in saving his life and testing the behaviour of those who surround him at court. In a Mid smnmar N-iqfrfc'g _ Dream the state of illusion of Theseus and the lovers, helps in purging them of their excessive passions. The improbabilities in Shakespeare also have an ethical purpose at their base. In As you Like It it has been variously argued that the conversion of Duke Frederick is sudden and inexplicable. Though it is inexplicable from the realistic point of view, it is justified from the ethical point of view. It fits in with the positive movement of the play. Shakespeare's plays are generally studied with implicit expectation of psychological realism. Shakespeare emphasizes the divine element to a great extent in his plays as in Hamlet, King Lear, The Tempest, etc. Once divinity is accepted on faith as the ultimate shaping power, the concept of realism and natural behaviour is conditioned by this divine frame of reference. Hence art also undergoes a change of purpose. ^What is called natural improbability in Shakespeare becmes acceptable as natural in that frame of reference. ''The mind of man in art then is supposed to behave not only as it does, but also as it ought. The frequency of the improbability in Shakespeare is explained reasonably enough in the light of what he was doing on the ethical plane on the basis of the natural plane which he probed and revealed so powerfully. 333

7 Therefore it may be said that Shakespeare's realism is of an ethical type. In conclusion it may be said that the entire range of Shakespeare's drama is an odyssey of a comprehensive vision of existence beginning with the fall to regeneration and a paradise regained. This movement of the plays symbolizes the vertical dimension. The ethical saga works in horizontal dimensions as well. It begins with the individual as in the case of Macbeth and Hamlet moves on to the family context as in Othello and King Lear and covers also the political and national field as in the history plays. This is probably the reason for which Dr. Johnson attributed Shakespeare as. the dramatist who has an all comprehensive soul, who saw life steadily and saw it whole. 334

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