Question: Write an essay on William Shakespeare as a Dramatist.
Shakespeare lived in a world that exemplified self-realization, self-respect, and the courage to think and act. His characters are intensely distinct and dynamic; his dramatic situation is provoked by strong emotions. The intensity of his plays reflects the growing Renaissance stimulus. Shakespeare’s name has become immortal. He is considered one of the greatest playwrights in the world of literature. The height he has achieved is unmatched by any other playwright.
The development of Shakespeare’s mind and art
Shakespeare’s theatrical life spanned a long 24 years from 1588 to 1612. During this time he wrote about 37 plays and 154 sonnets. Based on the development of his dramatic talents, his plays can be divided into four distinct periods or stages.
- Phase I: The first stage is called “In the Workshop”. This period extended from 1588 to 1595. During this period Shakespeare only revised, performed plays for the theater, and wrote some history, comedy, and tragedy namely Henry Six, Part Two, Henry Six, Part Three, Richard Two, Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labor Lost. , Two Gentlemen of Verona, A Mid-Summer Nights’ Dream, Titus Andronicus, and Romeo and Juliet. These plays clearly show the hand of a talented apprentice, not a master. Of course, he has surpassed other apprentices.
- Phase II: Phase II extends from 1595 to 1601. Dowden called this stage “the world.” During this time some great comedies and historical dramas were written. This period can therefore be called the comic period. During this time Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice, Taming of the Shrew, Much Addo About Nothing, As You Like It, The Mary Wives of Windsor, Twelfth Night, King John, Henry Four Part One, Henry Four Part Two, and Henry Five. During this time, Shakespeare’s emerging talents began to unfold or flourish. He saw the world as it was and his imagination revealed real life to him. He began to understand the earth and man and the nature of man.
- Phase III: Phase III extends from 1601 to 1608. Dowden called it “out of depth.” Four major tragedies were written during this period: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. Roman plays such as Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus were written. He also wrote other comedies; All’s Well that Ends Well, Troilus and Cressida, and Measure for Measure. These comedies are not light and comic but serious and reprehensible. During this period, Shakespeare stopped taking interest in light comics and thrilling events of life and history but penetrated the human heart and brought out the hidden weaknesses and merits of human nature. This is why this period is called “out of depth”.
- Final phase: The Fourth Period extends from 1608 to 1612. This period is called “on the heights”. This is the romantic period of Shakespeare’s dramatic career. During this time he wrote three romances, Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, The Tempest, and Timon in Athens, and a portion of Pericles. Shakespeare’s dramatic genius has now reached its peak. He has now overcome the storms and struggles of life. These storms and struggles have made him wise, calm and a huge heart. This period is a period of quiet self-acquisition, resignation, and reunion.
The art of Shakespeare’s characterization
Shakespeare’s treatment of character showed a deep understanding of human psychology. All his varied characters have been highly personal. Each of them is painted with his own peculiarities of his conquered idiosyncrasies and the two are not the same because Shakespeare’s humanity is as diverse as the human race; His men and women are drawn from every walk of life, age, and place – kings, lords and nobles, ordinary and great warriors, ordinary people, drunkards, thieves and robbers, cowards, clowns, dreamers, saints and sinners, men, women and children, all walking across Shakespeare’s stage, and no other playwright has given us such infinite variety.
Moreover, his characters are completely true to life. They are neither villains, nor devils or gods and goddesses in human form, but ordinary people with common happiness and misery and common evil and virtues. They are made of the same matte as we can each recognize a part of ourselves in them.
Also, his characters are presented so vividly and convincingly that we can never forget Rosalind, Orlando, Touchstone, Hamlet, King Lear, Portia, Shylock, Othello, Macbeth, and many more. These characters are long-lasting in memory and are more effective than most real men and women. We see that Shakespeare has created a large number of characters and all of them are equally believable. His minor characters are also very impressive.
The chief characteristics of Shakespeare’s Dramas
As a master of art, Shakespeare’s plays are packed with some conspicuous features which are physical like the human body. Some of the chief characteristics of his dramas are:
- High Imagination: Shakespeare’s imagination is poetic and creative in the true sense of the word. It is by virtue of his lofty imagination that he is able to understand every aspect of the character and life and to be able to present it so clearly in his plays. On the wings of his powerful imagination, he marvels from earth to heaven and from heaven to earth and takes us to every corner of the globe. It is because of his imagination that he has given us that wonderful and fresh description of nature which is a source of joy for his readers.
- The profundity of thought: Shakespeare had a deep insight into human life. He had his own ideas about this world and how it should be. If we wish, we can extract something moral or something else from his tragedy and his comedy. At certain moments he gets this life nothing but an empty dream. In Macbeth, for example, he writes;
Life is but a walking shadow
……………….It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and furry
- Poetic quality: Shakespeare is one of the greatest poets. His plays are very poetic. Heroes and heroines can create verses unpremeditatedly. The poetic virtue makes his heroes and heroines more popular.
- The serene sense of humor: The comedy of human life has richly been presented on Shakespeare’s pages. There is no bitterness in his smile. It is sunny and good-natured. We laugh with his characters. His plays are full of all kinds of humor. The clown has a sense of humor, the humor of the character, the humor of the situation, and the highest kind of wit and humor. His varied humor has been skillfully blended with Pathos and his influence has been further enhanced by the contrast.
Some other conspicuous features of Shakespeare’s plays are;
- Vast variety
- Soliloquys for self-revelation
- Blending of tragic and comic elements etc.
Subtly, it can be summed up that Shakespeare is not of one age but of all ages, not of one country but of all countries. Not only have his works delighted and thrilled audiences of his own age and country, but they have delighted and thrilled audiences of all ages and countries since they were written by the immortal poets of the world.