Shakespeare's Tragedies Reviewed

Hugh Richmond

Hugh Macrae Richmond: Shakespeare’s Tragedies Reviewed. A Spectator’s Role (Studies in Shakespeare, 22). New York: Peter Lang, 2015. Pp. xiii + 207. $ 84.95.

In this learned and comprehensive study, Hugh Macrae Richmond, of  U.C. Berkeley, argues that “Shakespearean tragedies are governed primarily by what audiences welcome, not by respect for the criteria of authorities such as Sidney. Shakespeare rather followed Cinthio (1504-1573), Guarini (1538-1612), and Lope de Vega (1562 – 1635) than Aristotle." The Spanish and Italian dramatists advocated the superiority of the mixed, more positive category of tragedy with a happy ending. This reversal involves a drastic reviewing of scripts to recognize the obligatory positive elements of plot, characterization, and ideology exacted by many spectators, which have been underestimated. Applying this approach to Shakespeare may seem as fresh as daring. . . . All in all, Richmond’s claim to offer a new perspective on the Italian-English cultural dialogue during the Renaissance and its contribution to intellectual history provides fresh insights into an exciting field. Richmond leaves us with an impressive testimony of his admirably wide reading and expertise in early modern literature and culture.

Summary of a review of data from Shakespeare's Staging by Sonja Fielitz of Marburg University in Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, 2. 2018



       Shakespeare's Tragedies Reviewed; A Spectator's Role

               by   Hugh Macrae Richmond

Oct 24, 2015 Alan Powers rated tL  "  It i was amazing"   ***** Five out of Five

As the General Editor of the Peter Lang Shakespeare Series which published this, I have read several MSS, this by far the best. Hugh Richmond begins with an essential question, one my wife and I have discussed for fifteen years: do modern plays really attempt to depress? HR cites this case. A spectator worried about a play 'by a leading modern dramatist which had made a profound effect on her: she was miserable for weeks afterwards. Apparently this was just the effect intended by the playwright, the director and actors, and endorsed by the reviewers'(p5,6). HR argues when directors do Shakespeare tragedy this way, they are entirely misunderstanding tragedy, which exhilarates--especially Shakespeare’s, so roundly condemned by the French for his mixing comedy and low characters with high. He reviews nine tragedies, but also Cymbeline, Two Noble Kinsmen and Lope's Castelvines y Monteses in comparison to Romeo and Juliet. He reveals the playwright anticipated and depended on spectator reactions. This is a revealing book bred of decades especially in the Berkeley and California Theater scene, but also of course as an advocate and participant in the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe in London. Richmond finds Shakespeare in harmony with Lope's idea of "the tragic mixed with the part grave, the other absurd": not exactly the genre of "tragicomedy" advocated by Fletcher, but perhaps tragedies which end happily, like Richard III or even MacBeth.  Ricmond  argues Shakespeare's tragedies are "governed primariy by what audiences welcome, not by respect for the criteria of authorities such as Sidney…" "The plays' structures, characterization, tone and emotional impact are governed primarily by recurring responses to performances from their popular audiences"(8).

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The Capulets and Montagues by Lope de Vega  

in Three Spanish golden age plays. Edwards, Gwynne 200               

Please read: In  Shakespeare's tragedies reviewed : a spectator's role      Book by Richmond, Hugh Macrae Peter Lang 2015                                     

Recommended Chapter:  Please read:

Richmond, Hugh Macrae, ‘A Spectator’s View of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Lope de Vega’s Castelvines y Monteses’ pp. 35-50


Ideas, II, 2 (2016   Valeria Rodriguez Van Dam: More Alive Than Ever: The Audacity of Shakespeare. Part I: "The putting into crisis of the genders."

 Dr. Joaquín V. González, Higher Institute for Teaching Staff of CONSUDEC, Septimio Walsh, Argentina 190. Ideas, II, 2 (2016)

"Othello: More alive than ever: Shakespeare's audacity" (173-193)

As it is the villain's first soliloquy in the play, the impact of this speech is even greater, since it establishes and manipulates the captive complicity of the audience (Hugh Macrae Richmond, 2015), who assist, powerless, silent and suffering, to Iago's nefarious train of thought in real time, which is also the construction of a story about the audience. Unlike other villains, Iago thinks, concocts and decides while speaking, and in this sense also transgresses the basic theatrical convention of the soliloquy, deliberately obscuring the theatrical discourse on which the audience depends to be able to follow the plot. He systematically lies and confuses the audience with various smoke screens about the motivations for his iniquities, in a true distortion of the nature of the soliloquy as a dramatic device that presupposes transparent and direct access to a character's thought.


Richmond, Hugh Macrae (2015). Shakespeare’s Tragedies Reviewed. A spectator’s role. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.



                                  A SPECTATOR’S ROLE

1. Introduction: the Spectator and the Dramatists                             

2. Renaissance Dramaturgy                                                              

3. Richard III as “a Tragedy with a Happy Ending”                       

4. A Spectator’s View of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

              and Lope de Vega’s Castelvines y Monteses                                                   

5.  Interlude: Mixed Modes Throughout Shakespeare                   

6. Julius Caesar and Neoclassicism                                                 

7. Hamlet: the Spectator as Detective                                               

8. Othello: Iago’s Audience                                                                

9. Macbeth: Satisfying the Spectator                                                 

         10. Coriolanus: the Spectator and Aristotelianism                    

         11. Enjoying King Lear                                                           

         12. Antony and Cleopatra: Comical/Historical/Tragical        

        13. Cymbeline as Resolution: Tragical-Comical-Historical-      


        14. Epilogue: Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen            

Appendix A. Titus Andronicus,                                                         

                 B. Timon of Athens.                                                         

Appendix A. Sir Philip Sidney: An Apologie for Poetrie                

                B. Lope de Vega: The New Art of Making Plays              









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