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upon the stage tell us all that we need to know about the situation in which the principal characters find themselves at the opening of the drama. While giving us this information, the persons before us are apparently talking only to one another, and their conversation seems, it may be, entirely natural and appropriate. We may call this opening portion of the play the introduction; the struggle which constitutes. the play proper has not yet begun.
After the opening situation has been put before us as fully as necessary, a strong desire or purpose springs up in the mind of the hero. This desire is the natural result of the peculiar character of the hero and the special circumstances in which he is placed. He makes a strenuous effort to accomplish this purpose; and this struggle, with its outcome, makes up the play itself. Even in a play that is light and sportive some measure of conflict will be found; a serious drama is an intense struggle between powerful opponents. The incident which marks the beginning of the play proper may be called "the initial incident," or, more simply, "the initial step." By this phrase is meant the particular occurrence with which the movement of the drama actually begins. This incident first shows us the nature of the conflict that is to engage our attention.
It is the rule in Shakespeare that this initial step, the first important turning-point in the play, is presented with great distinctness. This enables the audience to perceive the exact starting-point of the action, and prepares them to understand the coming conflict. Here we see the practical wisdom and skill of the actor-dramatist. But in Julius Caesar, for necessary reasons, the initial step does not stand out with the usual clearness. Shakespeare manages, however, by means of a special incident, which immediately follows, to call our attention to the meaning of what has just happened, and to make us realize that the play has indeed begun. After the student has made up his mind what the
incident is with which the action of the drama properly begins, he will note the skill with which Shakespeare immediately afterward points his finger, so to speak, at this initial step, and thus compels us to recognize its significance.
In a play the central struggle is between two parties — the hero and those associated with him on the one side, and his opponents on the other. The various steps by which the hero and his party advance toward the accomplishment of his great purpose, up to the point where the action begins. to set clearly toward a definite outcome, may together be called the complication.
These general statements will sometimes need modification in order to fit the case of a particular play. Some things that have been said, for example, do not apply very well to Othello, since in this play the complication is brought about by the plot of Iago, who is the enemy of Othello, and the hero is passive during the first half of the drama.
After a time there comes a decisive turn in the course of events; and henceforward the action progresses steadily toward its outcome, toward the happy close of a comedy or the fatal close of a tragedy. The progress of the action from its climax to its conclusion is called the resolution. Since this stage of the action is the counterpart of the complication, it might with some fitness be termed the simplification. At the end of a tragedy death settles all strife; the close of a comedy is marked by explanations, forgiveness, and general happiness; and usually we are left listening for the chime of marriage bells.
The incident which marks the beginning of the resolution of the action may be termed "the resolving incident"; in the case of a tragedy it may be called more specifically “the tragic incident." All that is really necessary, however, is that the course of the action shall swing around from increasing complication toward increasing simplification, toward a definite outcome; it is not necessary that this "turn" of
the action shall be made manifest in one specific occurrence. In Julius Cæsar the student will find an unmistakable tragic incident. With this the fall, or resolution, of the action decisively begins.
The following figure will represent in a general way the threefold division of the action of a drama into introduction,.
complication, and resolution, which has been discussed. The point A marks the location of the initial incident; B denotes the turn of the action-the resolving incident, if any single occurrence seems to deserve that title.
We commonly speak of the closing part of the resolution of a tragedy as the catastrophe; in the case of a comedy we call the last portion simply the close, or the conclusion. In a similar way the last part of the complication, just preceding the turn or resolving incident, is sometimes called the climax of the play. This term is not a fortunate one, since the word "climax" is often understood to mean simply the occurrence which begins the resolution — the resolving incident.
The word "climax" is often employed in dramatic criticism in still a third meaning. The point of greatest emotional intensity in a play, the point where the feelings of the spectator are most powerfully excited, is sometimes called the climax. But this point may not fall at or near the turn of the action. In Othello, for example, our interest constantly increases up to the tremendous catastrophe. In this third meaning of the word, therefore, the climax of Othello comes at the close of the play.
Shakespeare frequently has several more or less fully developed actions, or stories, in the same play, especially in his comedies. Sometimes in a minor story the initial step and the resolving incident of that separate action are distinctly marked. In such a play it is only the main .action of which I am speaking.
The reader must not suppose for a moment that these divisions of the action are as distinct as they have seemed in this discussion. Shakespeare skillfully prepares his readers for every important development that is to come. Though we may be somewhat surprised now and then at the exact turn which the action takes, yet in the case of an attentive spectator the great dramatist appeals much more to expectation than to surprise. We are led to anticipate each succeeding stage of the action before it begins, perhaps even to see that it is a necessary consequence of what has preceded. It is especially true of the tragedies that the characters and circumstances are so put before us early in the play as to indicate in a general way what the outcome is to be; and then the mighty masterpiece moves steadily on to its inevitable end.
IV. THE STAGE OF SHAKESPEARE'S DAY AND SOME MODERN ADAPTATIONS
Before theaters existed in England companies of actors presented plays in the enclosed four-sided yards of inns. A platform was built inside the great gateway by which the yard was entered, and spectators beheld the performance from the yard and the inner balconies. In many ways the first theaters copied these inn-yards.
The first London theaters had to be built outside the city limits because of the opposition of the Puritan city government. The first playhouse erected was The Theater, built in 1576, in Shoreditch, just north of the eastern portion of the city. Very soon after, The Curtain was built near to The