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Shakespeare: 

Discover the Basics of the Bard

Learning Tools

To start... understand if the play is a tragedy or a comedy. Knowing this is like understanding the genre of a piece of fiction. It gives you clues to look for as you're reading.

Elements of Tragedy

  1. The Tragic Hero - Only great men are tragic heroes​

  2. The Tragic Flaw - (Greek- Hamartia) is what leads to their downfall; usually obsession

  3. The Tragic Story - The tragic story leads up to and includes the death of the hero​

  4. The Abnormal, The Supernatural, Fate - Common elements like hallucinations, witches and ghosts, and fate​

  5. Tragic Conflicts - External: fighting between people of groups; Internal: inner moral conflicts

  6. The Tragic Pattern - A man who is powerful and high ranking whose obsession will bring about his downfall

  7. Tragic Structure in Plays - Plot structure

Elements of Comedy

  1. Marriage - happy endings

  2. A greater emphasis on situations than characters - when something bad happens to the characters, we don't feel bad

  3. Struggle of young lovers to overcome difficulty - usually elders/parents who stand in the way of their love

  4. Separation and reunification of couples

  5. Deception among characters - mistaken identity, usually in costume

  6. A clever servant or clown

  7. Tension between characters, usually within a family

  8.  Multiple, intertwining plots

  9. Use of different styles of comedy - slapstick, puns, sarcasm, practical jokes

  10. Happy Ending

If you understand these elements before you begin reading, you know most of the story before you've even cracked open the play!