chapter  4
14 Pages

Later critical texts

In the twentieth century critical approaches to William Shakespeare have increased in volume and diversity, and tragedy remains a dominant theme. Critical controversy can be bewildering, and the number of new texts is almost overwhelming. Apart from the critical introduction, the text carries a full critical apparatus, is modernized according to overall editorial principles, and is characterized by a typographical layout which makes for easy reference. The modern perspective of tragedy is summed up by Geoffrey Brereton in Principles of Tragedy, who writes: ‘The prestige of tragedy as an intellectual and critical conception stands in almost inverse ratio to its prestige on the stage’. The critical trend is away from a fixed view of character, toward recognition of changing perspectives and dramatic techniques. The critical approach through the transcendence of the consciousness of dramatic character requires a detailed analysis of the individual plays, with King Lear seen as ‘off key’ and Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth grouped as ‘Tragedy of Consciousness’.