Download Antony & Cleopatra by Southern Pat PDF

By Southern Pat

ISBN-10: 0752443836

ISBN-13: 9780752443836

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The ‘fundamental motive of the histories was the need to make a future’, but ‘futility sits deep in the bone of the histories – most poignantly when it seizes those figures who are most fiercely and complexly committed to the justification of their lives in time’ as, for example, Henry V (1983: 246–7). The history plays’ remembered relation to a lost past is the central theme of Robert Jones’s These Valiant Dead: Renewing the Past in Shakespeare’s Histories (1991). A. P. Rossiter’s important essay ‘Ambivalence: The Dialectic of the Histories’, in his Angel with Horns (1961), argues with a flourish of capital letters that the histories are characterized by a ‘Doubleness’: in the conflicting values set by the Greatness (the Triumph) of the National Destiny, and the Frustration, the inadequacy, of the Individual (the frail Man within the robe) – there is nothing complex in the ‘Doubleness’.

Shakespeare’s greatest contribution to historical writing was ‘to unsynthesize the syntheses of his contemporaries and to unmoralize their moralizations’ (Kelly, 1970: 304), leaving open the question ‘as to how God would distribute praise and blame and sanctions for good and evil in these instances’ (1970: 306). Larry Champion’s chapter titles in his account of the history plays trace a development from ‘the search for dramatic form’ in the Henry VI plays, through ‘a maturity of perspective’ in the later plays towards a ‘celebration of history’ in Henry VIII (Champion, 1980).

His study goes on to develop readings of the individual plays which exemplify this process of education and self-development. John Wilders’s The Lost Garden (1978) discusses the ways in which ‘in the minds of Shakespeare’s historical characters, personal and political motives are so combined and confused as to be inseparable’ (1978: 2), and argues that it is in the personal that Shakespeare locates the forces of historical agency: The causes of national unity, of division, of prosperity or decline are, in Shakespeare’s view, to be found not, as some of the fifteenth century chroniclers had believed, in the providential power of God, nor, as we are now inclined to think, in social and economic conditions, but in the temperaments of national leaders and their reactions towards one another.

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