King Lear, Macbeth, Indefinition, and Tragedy Ebook
Publication Date: August 2002
File Size: 581 Kbytes
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First published in 1983, this book closely examines the way in which King Lear and Macbeth act upon the understandings of their audiences, and asks what it is about these plays that makes us call them tragedies, and what we are labeling in a play when we call it a tragedy. Booth argues that the literary works we call tragedies have their value as enabling actions: dramatic tragedies can render us capable, temporarily, of enduring practical, personal experience of the fact of infinity. In Part 1, ‘On the Greatness of King Lear’ Booth’s starting point is the impact of the play. Through analysis of its variously indefinite particulars, he works toward general assertions about tragedy. Part 2, on Macbeth, starts with the idea of tragedy and works back to the play. Seeing an essential connection between tragedy and human intolerance of indeterminacy, he characterises Macbeth as a flirtation between definition and indefinition. Bridging Parts 1 and 2 is a brief chapter on Love’s Labor’s Lost in which Booth points out the indeterminacy that this comedy shares with King Lear and describes the categorically necessary function of indeterminacy in jokes and puns. In an appendix on the practice of doubling by Elizabethan and Jacobean actors he considers the possibility that Shakespeare’s purposeful exploitation of artistic definition/indefinition extended to the particulars of theatrical production.
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