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In this compact, yet comprehensive exploration of Shakespeare's romances, Robert W. Uphaus suggests that the romances bring us to a realm of human and dramatic experience that is "beyond tragedy." The inexorable movement of tragedy toward death and a final close is absorbed in romance by a further movement in which death can lead to renewed life, characters can experience a second time of joy and peace, and the audience's conventional expectations about reality and literature are challenged and enlarged.
In the late tragedies of King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra, Uphaus finds the tragic structure augmented by elements that will later contribute to the form of the romances. Turning then to the romances themselves, he sees these plays as forming a profession in which Pericles is a brilliant outline of the conventions of romance and Cymbeline is romance taken to its dramatic limits, in fact to the point of parody. Through his fresh and provocative readings of the plays we experience anew the delight of Shakespearean romance and glimpse the world of renewal at its heart.
Robert W. Uphaus is professor of English at Michigan State University. He is also the author of The Impossible Observer: Reason and the Reader in Eighteenth-Century Prose.
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Literature in English, British Isles
Uphaus, Robert W., "Beyond Tragedy: Structure and Experience in Shakespeare's Romances" (1981). Literature in English, British Isles. 56.