Structure of a Shakespearean Drama | Critical Studies

Structure of a Shakespearean Drama | Critical Studies

  • Act 1: Exposition

    The exposition provides the background information needed to properly understand the story, such as the protagonist, the antagonist, the basic conflict, and the setting of Shakespearean Drama. The exposition ends with the inciting moment, which is the incident without which there would be no story.

    The inciting moment sets the remainder of the story in motion beginning with the second act, the rising action.

  • Act 2: Rising action

    During rising action, the basic internal conflict is complicated by the introduction of related secondary conflicts, including various obstacles that frustrate the protagonist’s attempt to reach his goal.

    Secondary conflicts can include adversaries of lesser importance than the story’s antagonist, who may work with the antagonist or separately, by and for themselves or actions unknown appeared in Shakespearean Drama.

  • Act 3: Climax

    The third act is that of the climax, or turning point, which marks a change, for the better or the worse, in the protagonist’s affairs. If the story is a comedy, things will have gone badly for the protagonist up to this point; now, the tide, so to speak, will turn, and things will begin to go well for him or her.

    If the story is a tragedy, the opposite state of affairs will ensue, with things going from good to bad for the protagonist.

  • Act 4: Falling action

    During the falling action, or resolution, which is the moment of reversal after the climax, the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist unravels, with the protagonist winning or losing against the antagonist.

    The falling action might contain a moment of final suspense, during which the final outcome of the conflict is in doubt appeared in Shakespearean Drama.

  • Act 5: Dénouement, resolution, or catastrophe

    The comedy ends with a dénouement (a conclusion) in which the protagonist is better off than at the story’s outset, usually involving marriages.

    The tragedy ends with a catastrophe in which the protagonist is worse off than at the beginning of the narrative, usually involving deaths.

  • Shakespearean Dramatic Techniques: Soliloquy

    A soliloquy is an extended speech, directed to the audience rather than to other characters, in which the speaker explores their thoughts and feelings. It can deal with big, generalised issues, such as Hamlet’s To be or not to be. (Act 3. Scene i.), in which he considers life, death and suicide; react to events such as O what a rogue and peasant slave am I! (Act 2, Scene ii), when he compares himself with the Player King and berates his own inaction; or ponder future action, as in Now might I do it pat, now he is praying (Act 3, Scene iii).

    A soliloquy is not just an extended, emotional speech, however. For example, Portia’s The quality of mercy is not strained in The Merchant of Venice (Act 4, Scene i) is not a soliloquy, as it is delivered to Shylock, attempting to persuade him not to exact the pound of Antonio’s flesh specified in the bond. In technical terms, this is an example of ‘forensic oratory’ – a persuasive speech made in court.

  • Shakespearean Dramatic Techniques: Soliloquies and asides

    A soliloquy should also be distinguished from a ‘dramatic aside’, which is a comment spoken during a passage of dialogue, though not meant to be heard by the other characters. It usually comments on, or contrasts with, the dialogue it accompanies. For example, Shylock’s lengthy aside beginning Yes, to smell pork (Act 1, Scene iii) is obviously directed at Bassanio, though he is not intended to hear it, and is slotted into the dialogue of the scene.

    It is also part of the time-scheme of the dialogue; there is often a feeling in soliloquy that a character has stepped ‘outside time’ to reflect, whereas Shylock’s comments occupy a brief and specific moment in the dialogue.

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