Shakespeare Plays: Later Contribution to Drama

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      Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest belong to the last riod of Shakespeare's dramatic career. They were written possibly between 1608 and 1611. These plays are closely related to one another in theme, and representing an effort to give artistic form to a symbolic conception. Dowden finds in these plays a spirit ot reconciliation and serenity while Lytton Strachey sees in these plays the mood of bitterness and boredom. Middleton Murry discovers a note of spiritual rebirth.

Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and the Tempest belong to the last riod of Shakespeare's dramatic career.

      The last plays are dramatic romances where impossible romances and imaginary settings and supernatural events take place. In the dark comedies and tragedies, Shakespeare deals with evil; in the last plays, evil is present but it is conquered by philosophy, intelligence and intrepid will. Destiny interferes not as a malign force but as saviour and deliverer. Untoward incidents happen; Iachimo and Cloten (Cymibeline) may lay traps; Leontes (The Winter's Tale) may act out of brutish frenzy; Antony and Sebastian (The Tempest) may hatch conspiracies, but there is a higher power which orders things in such a way that all turns out for the best. The witches of Macbeth towards evil, but the phantoms who visit Posthumus are beneficent agencies (Cymbeline). In The Winter's Tale Hermione is vindicated, Perdita's life is miraculously preserved and she is in romantic circumstances married to Florizel. In Cymbeline and The Winter 's Tale, this power is active but it does not directly take part in the events of the drama. In The Tempest Destiny places herself in the control of man. Prospero with his magic wand has absolute control of human affairs, of the forces of Nature and even of the spirits of the air. In all these plays there is the interplay between reality and unreality. The tribulations of Posthumous and Imogen are real, but Jupiter's speech shows how unreal they are. In The Winter's Tale, Apollo's prophecy gives a hint that Perdita may be saved, and Time suggests the workings of the benign powers who preserve her life. This makes Leontes jealousy look harmless and spreads over the play an atmosphere of comedy. The tempest is real for Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian and others but it is unreal for P'rospero. Looked at from the point of View of Prospero, all tragic issues (conspiracies of Antonio and Sebastian, Caliban and others) become comic.

      There are tragi-comic elements ln the plays. Deaumont and Fletcher made tragi-comedies popular, Shakespeare wrote these plays to cater to the popular taste. These plays are characterised by the blend of romantic settings and real Characters and human situations. There are tragic possibilities and serious situations but these are brought to happy conclusions by artificial intervention of destiny. Characters are more symbolic than real. Indeed these last plays are symbolic. The theme of loss and reconciliation Cymbeline is conveyed through symbolic characters. In The Winter's late friendship is broken and restored. Children's love heals the divisions introduced by passion into the original friendship of the fathers. Winter has passed at last through spring into the summer of gracious consummation and fulfilment. The Tempest is the symbolic enactment of the theme of freedom and forgiveness. The shipwreck is the means of grace. Prospero who raises the storm for taking revenge finds at last that mercy is the rarest virtue, and he forgives his enemies, and finds happiness in the union of Miranda and Ferdinand which promises fair issue and fair life. It is more a masque than a drama proper. Its music and marvels, its airy and earthy beings, its masque celebrating marriage are in consonance with its symbolic character.

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