Christian Settings in Shakespeare's Tragedies

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Associated University Presse, 1994 - Literary Collections - 324 pages
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Showing no propagandistic concern for theology, Shakespeare's tragedies with Christian settings (R3, R2, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet) are secular, sympathetic treatments of human downfall caused mainly by evil in external situations in the universe and society. In this book, D. Douglas Waters - defining Shakespeare's tragic vision - sees evil mainly in terms of cosmic and societal forces and only partially in terms of the weaknesses of the tragic figures. The scope of Waters's study is to analyze the tragic structure of several plays, to oppose present-day deemphasis on the genre of tragedy in discussions of Shakespeare by some structuralists and poststructuralists, and to stress Shakespeare's tragic mimesis (as artistic representation) and our response to it - our intellectual, moral, and emotional clarification of pity and fear for the tragic heroes and/or heroines.
Here, Waters takes a combined historicist and formalist approach to Shakespeare's tragedies with Christian settings. He takes issue with both the theological critics of Shakespeare's tragedies and structuralist and poststructuralist interpreters (who either ignore or slight tragedy and tragic theory in Shakespeare interpretation). Waters's view differs notably from such diverse interpretations as Roy W. Battenhouse's Shakespearean tragedy: Its art and Christian premises, Irving Ribner's Patterns in Shakespearian tragedy, Virgil K. Whitaker's The mirror up to nature: The techniques of Shakespeare's tragedies, and Robert Grams Hunter's Shakespeare and the mystery of God's judgments. Waters questions, for example, Battenhouse's validity of Christian theological and didactic emphases on the old purgation theory of catharsis. His approach differs also from Northrop Frye's views on the tragedies in Northrop Frye on Shakespeare, an archetypal approach to representative plays including the tragedies. More in the tradition of such works as Roland M. Frye's Shakespeare and Christian doctrine and The Renaissance "Hamlet" and Robert H. West's Shakespeare and the outer mystery, Waters's efforts go beyond those of Kenneth Muir and Ruth Nevo - and others with whom he generally agrees - by discussing tragedy in light of some recent structuralist and poststructuralist challenges to the importance of genre considerations in Shakespeare.
This text is a valuable historicist/formalist contribution to critical theory and a specific literary analysis of the tragedies with Christian settings - tragedies which give secular importance to human suffering without affirming the importance of theological premises. Waters holds that these tragedies emphasize all things human and cause spectators and readers of these tragedies to question rather than affirm God's goodness, grace, and providence.
 

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Contents

Introduction Tragedy in Shakespeare
19
Mimesis Shakespeare the Dramatist and His Texts
31
Philosophical Implications of Shakespeares Tragedies
59
Catharsis as Clarification
79
Romeo and Juliet as Tragedy
121
Catharsis as Clarification in Macbeth
141
Othello Recent Interpretations and Tragedy
174
Mimesis and Catharsis as Clarification in Hamlet
208
The Conclusion
247
Notes
263
Works Cited
291
Subject Index
315
Author Index
321
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About the author (1994)

D. Douglas Waters teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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