Shakespeare: 

Discover the Basics of the Bard

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.    

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Elements of Tragedy

Elements of Comedy

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

2.  The Tragic Flaw- (Greek- Hamartia) this 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

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 re-unification 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!