Past and Future in Shakespeare's Drama
DOI link for Past and Future in Shakespeare's Drama
Past and Future in Shakespeare's Drama book
When Hamlet refers to the nature of man as 'looking before and after' Shakespeare here epitomizes a characteristic feature which can be detected on almost every page in his plays. For Shakespeare's characters though acting in the present invariably glance back to what has happened and look ahead to what is coming. What, in our daily existence, remains closed up within the mind and rarely reaches the level of spoken utterance, the constant flow of our thoughts either into the future or the past, becomes explicit and articulate in Shakespeare's dramatic characters. This applies to be sure in varying degree to most plays of the dramatic literature of the world. There is almost no drama without some reference to past and future. But the way in which the dramatists have made use of past and future for the structure of their plays differs widely and is often in many respects revealing. For the understanding of Shakespeare's plays, too, the relationship between past and future is of the greatest significance. It opens up an approach to the time structure in the plays; it is closely connected not only with the art of preparation, of exposition and of suspense, but also with the fundamental principles of composition. As in so many other respects Shakespeare displays 'infinite variety' in this field. For the specific function of retrospect and foreboding, of past and future, changes almost from play to play. Followed up throughout his work, however, Shakespeare's changing treatment of past and future could not only serve as a measure for the evolution of his dramatic art, but could also disclose to us some of his fundamental attitudes.