Aspects of the disguise theme in some Shakespearean plays

Uys, John (1975) Aspects of the disguise theme in some Shakespearean plays. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Chapter I : The Comedy of Errors This Chapter starts with the hypothesis that mistaken identity initiates all the confusion in the play, which in turn leads to a re-appraisal of the nature of identity. The recurring image of 'a drop of water' falling into the ocean suggesting an analogy to the losing or modification of self in relationships is then discussed. Mistaken identity leads to an assessment of an individual's response in the relationship of love, and the views of Adriana, Antipholus of Syracuse and Luciana are discussed. The chapter goes on to deal with other consequences of the growing confusion, namely physical violence, and the disorder manifested in the breakdown of a marriage, and spreading outwards to encompass the wider community. Explanation for the bewildering events is sought in supernatural forces. Finally, the chapter reiterates the central concern with identity in the play where errors have made the main characters unsure of their own natures. Chapter II : Twelfth Night This chapter begins with a discussion of the device of disguising a woman as a boy, which features so largely in the main character, Viola. There is a comparison between As Yon Like It and Twelfth Night, which seeks to define the atmosphere of the latter as more disturbing and altogether darker. Chapter III : A Midsummer Night's Dream The introduction to this chapter establishes the fact that this play is concerned with disguise as it illuminates Shakespeare's investigation of his own craft. Dramatic analogies are constantly implied and attendant questions about the nature of dramatic illusion arise, issues which come to a head in The Tempest. The experience of the lovers in the dream world of moonlit woods is discussed, stressing the inherent analogy of that to a dramatic situation. Chapter IV : Henry V Disguise in this play has political manifestations. Critics' arguments for accepting an unambiguous portrayal of Henry V are questioned. Henry is shown to be surrounded by prelates who are shrewd opportunists, and to posses a character closely akin to the cold, calculating Hal of the Henry IV, plays. What is really a war of aggression is made out to be a glorious, noble enterprise by the King's skilful rhetoric. Chapter V : Measure for Measure The introduction discusses the term 'problem' play, and discusses the Duke's disguise with reference to his identity, and to the dramatic analogy suggested by his manipulative powers. Angelo's dissembling is investigated, as it bears on the pervasive atmosphere of ambivalence within the play. Chapter VI : King bear The introduction makes the point that the structure of this tragedy differs from the others in the Shakespeare canon in that the hero achieves a substantial measure of self-knowledge. Dear's first action of abdication initiates the process of his own suffering, in which he is forced to come to terms with a world stripped of deception. Chapter VII : The Tempest This is a play very much concerned with questions about dramatic effect and the powers of art, as the introduction points out. The character of Prospero is found to be ambiguous and fallible under the guise which he projects of all powerful and all knowing magician. The dramatic analogy of Prospero's manipulation of characters and use of theatrical effects through Ariel is discussed. Also, his own attitude to his powers, and his bitterness at having his plans thwarted are examined. Caliban is the focus for Prospero's hatred; his character also reveals hidden depths, despite Prospero's unqualified condemnation. Such ambivalence in the main characters is reflected in the ambiguity of the play's setting, and the perspectives of the characters caught up in the confusion of the island. The ending of the play is seen to deny Gonzalo's optimistic formulations. Prospero's Art, which culminates in the triumph of the masque at the marriage feasts is thwarted by Caliban, and Prospero ends the play in a mood of disillusionment. The implications of this on the question of dramatic effect in the play overall are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: British & Irish literature
Date of Award: 1975
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1975-73817
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/73817

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