- Shakespeare, William
- 1564 - 1582: William Shakespeare's Stratford Beginnings
- 1582 - 1592: William Shakespeare's Marriage, Parenthood and Early Occupation
- 1592 - 1594: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 1
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 2
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3
- 1611 - 1616: William Shakespeare - Back to Stratford
- Walpole, Horace
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- The Theatre
- Act I
- Act II
- Act III
- Act IV
- Act V
Real person or construct?
Until about the middle of the twentieth century, some critics, and many readers and theatre-goers, wrote and spoke of characters in plays as if they were real people with a life that continued off-stage.
More on confusion of character with reality: In 1850, Mary Cowden Clarke even published The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines, in which, building on hints and ideas from the plays, she imagined the upbringing of each heroine; Ophelia, for example, she describes as a child watching the ‘wide expanse of sea … swelling before her; while a feeling of awe would creep over her at the thought of a watery death.'
Nowadays it is accepted that characters are constructs— that is, they have no real existence but are created by the writer and given shape for a particular purpose.
So we need to ask:
- Why did Shakespeare give this particular character his or her characteristics?
- What would be the result if they were different?
- What would be the result if that character were not introduced at all?
More on the effect of character on plot: Of course the plot would be altered considerably if, say, there were no Ophelia in Hamlet — but what would be the result if she were as confident as, for example, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing?
For each character, then, we can look at:
- How Shakespeare has presented them
- Their effect on the drama
- What Shakespeare's purposes might have been.
Scan and go
Scan on your mobile for direct link.