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p. 1Introduction: what is a tragedy?locked

  • Stanley Wells

Abstract

Around half of Shakespeare’s plays are tragedies in the most basic sense of the word, with the death of their central character or characters. The Introduction explains that just as Shakespeare’s comedies often verge on tragedy, so his tragedies frequently offer a wittily ironic perspective on the action. This suggests that when Shakespeare set about looking for a story to dramatize he was more concerned to find one that offered possibilities for a variety of dramatic effects than for one that would fit neatly into the traditional kinds of drama. It also notes that Shakespeare was aware of, and influenced by, the Roman tragedies of Seneca and the comic dramatist Plautus.

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