6lectureRomeo - Romeo and Juliet 1: tragedy, plot-structure...

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Romeo and Juliet 1: tragedy, plot-structure and bawdy language Lecture structure: 1. The nature of theatrical tragedy and the plot structure of Romeo and Juliet ; 2. The opening scene. 1. The nature of theatrical tragedy and the plot structure Comedy traditionally ends in a marriage and tragedy ends in death. Sir Philip Sidney, a famous Renaissance poet, said in 1595 that “Comedy is an imitation of the common errors of our life” while Tragedy “openeth the greatest woundes, and . .. maketh Kings feare to be Tyrants”. (Philip Sidney, An Apologie for Poetry , 1595) A Midsummer Night’s Dream has all the makings of a tragedy (with a daughter’s disobedience to her father). Romeo and Juliet has the same set of possibilities: it concerns a love affair and disobedience to one’s parents. (And it certainly doesn’t have anything really to do with Kings or tyrants, so it is already playing with our expectations of what a tragedy might be. It could turn out to be a comedy: it has all the ingredients.) In fact, the play has very similar ingredients to A Midsummer Night’s Dream up to Act 3 . Plot structure as Shakespeare might have understood it: There were various theories about how to construct plays in Shakespeare’s time, largely taken from Greek and Roman writings, such as Aristotle’s Poetics . In very simple terms, you can think of the plays’ structures as: Acts 1 and 2 set the scene and explain who the characters are (sometimes called the ‘exposition’ and sometimes called the ‘protasis’); Act 3: there is a turning point or a reversal in the hero’s fortunes (called ‘peripety’ by Aristotle, but sometimes called ‘epitasis’ or ‘complicating moment’); Acts 4 and 5 move towards the conclusion, also known as the ‘catastrophe’ (which literally means an ‘overturning’). Romeo and Juliet
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6lectureRomeo - Romeo and Juliet 1: tragedy, plot-structure...

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