Shakespeare's so-called "tragic period" |
Tragic period lasted from about 1600 to
Shakespeare's so-called "tragic period" lasted from about 1600 to 1608. Many
critics believe that his greatest tragedies are the peak of his
art. The hero of the first, Hamlet, has probably been more discussed than any other Shakespearean
character, especially for his famous soliloquy "To be or not to be; that is the question."
Unlike the introverted Hamlet, whose fatal
flaw is hesitation, the heroes of the tragedies that followed,
Othello and King Lear, are undone by hasty errors of judgment. The plots of Shakespeare's tragedies
often hinge on such fatal errors or flaws, which
overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves.
In Othello, the villain Iago stokes Othello's sexual jealousy to the point
where he murders the innocent wife who loves him. In King Lear, the old king commits the tragic
error of giving up his powers, initiating the events which lead to the murder of
his daughter and the torture and blinding of the Earl of
Gloucester. According to the critic Frank Kermode, "the play offers neither its good characters nor
its audience any relief from its cruelty." In Macbeth, the shortest and most
compressed of Shakespeare's tragedies, uncontrollable
ambition incites Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, to murder the rightful king
and usurp the throne. They are destroyed in turn.
His last major tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, contain some of Shakespeare's
finest poetry and were considered his most successful tragedies by the poet and critic T. S.