Shakespeare's Tragedies Reviewed

Hugh Richmond


Peter Lang - International Academic Publisher, Moosstrasse 1 - POB 350 CH-2542 Pieterlen / Switzerland



New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 31 August 2015. XIV, 207 pp.ISBN 978-1-4331-2919-3 hb. (Hardcover) SFR 79.00 / €65.35 / £ 52.00 / US$ 84.95eBook: ISBN 978-1-4539-1480-9 SFR 83.25 /  € 65.35 / £ 52.00 / US$ 84.95


Shakespeare’s Tragedies Reviewed explores how the recognition of spectator interests bythe playwright has determined the detailed character of Shakespeare tragedies. Utilizing Shakespeare’s European models and contemporaries, including Cinthio and Lope de Vega, and following forms such as Aristotle’s second, more popular style of tragedy (a double ending of punishment for the evil and honor for the good), Hugh Macrae Richmond elicits radical revision of traditional interpretations of the scripts. The analysis includes a major shift in emphasis from conventionally tragic concerns to a more varied blend of tones, characterizations, and situations, designed to hold spectator interest rather than to meet neoclassical standards of coherence, focus, and progression. This reinterpretation also bears on modern staging and directorial emphasis, challenging the relevance of traditional norms of tragedy to production of Renaissance drama. The stress shifts to plays’ counter-movements to tragic tones, and to scripts’ contrasting positive factors to common downbeat interpretations – such as the role of humor in King Lear andthe significance of residual leadership in the tragedies as seen in the roles of Malcolm, Edgar, Cassio, and Octavius, as well as the broader progressions in such continuities as those within Shakespeare’s Roman world from Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra to Cymbeline. It becomes apparent that the authority of the spectator in such Shakespearean titles as What You Will and As You Like It may bear meaningfully on interpretation of more plays than just the comedies.


CONTENTS– The Spectator and the Dramatists – Renaissance Dramaturgy – Richard III as «a Tragedy with a Happy Ending» – A Spectator’s View of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Lope de Vega’s Castelvines y Monteses – Interlude: Mixed Modes Throughout Shakespeare– Julius Caesar and Neoclassicism – Hamlet: The Spectator as Detective – Othello: Iago’s Audience – Macbeth: Satisfying the Spectator– Coriolanus: The Spectator and Aristotelianism – Enjoying King Lear Antony and Cleopatra: Comical/Historical/Tragical– Cymbelene as Resolution: Tragical-Comical-Historical-Pastoral – Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen.



Hugh Macrae Richmond is Professor of English Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned a BA from Cambridge University and a DPhil from Oxford University, as well as diplomas in language from Florence and Munich. He has received many awards for his scholarship and teaching. His numerous books include: Shakespeare’s Political Plays, Shakespeare’s Sexual Comedy, and editions of Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry VIII. Dr. Richmond has also compiled critical bibliographies: Shakespeare and the Renaissance Stage to 1616: Shakespearean Stage History 1616 to 1998 and Shakespeare’s Theatre: A Dictionary of His Stage Context

Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond