Metadrama In Shakespeare Essay

1926 words - 8 pages

'Shakespeare's plays reflect not life but art.' Make use of this remark in writing an essay on Shakespeare's use of Metadrama.Shakespeare constantly plays with metadrama and the perception of his plays as theatre and not life with the complications inherent that in life we all play roles and perceive life in different ways. The play has recognition of its existence as theatre, which has relevance to a contemporary world that is increasingly aware of precisely how its values and practices are constructed and legitimised through perceptions of reality.Critic Mark Currie posits that metadrama allows its readers a better understanding of the fundamental structures of narrative while providing an ...view middle of the document...

Feste in Twelfth Night exemplifies this notion, "Nothing that is so is so" (Act IV scene i, line 8) Shakespeare uses Feste to foreground the artificiality of the complex theater and language systems that the audience absorbs, saying, 'Nothing that seems real is how you perceive it'. It is a metadramatic irony that Shakespeare uses the fool to do this. Wordplay for the comedic fool and for Shakespeare is at the heart of their art. Shakespeare repeatedly draws attention to theatrical devices and mechanisms and foregrounds the fact that his plays are carefully constructed art. This essay examines the various metadramatic constructions that Shakespeare used to achieve this and examines the effect of these dramatic constructs for the audience.Dramatic constructions were written to be presented and understood in performance. The nature of these constructions lies in how they are assembled. How the words work with and against each other - ambiguity, paradox, pun, literary and cultural reference. Some aspects of the works are conscious, some unconscious but the playwright's intentions do not matter as we the audience view the art first and then the artist.There are certain conventions used in Elizabethan theatre. The audience needs to know how these conventions work before they can accept them. As there were only two or three professional theatre groups operating at the time Shakespeare knew his audience and there is evidence to suggest that he wrote specifically for these people who no doubt kept returning because they enjoyed the way he wrote and the experience of the play.One convention which foregrounds the theatrical is the 'aside' where for example Hamlet speaks very loudly so that the audience who may be ten meters away can hear him clearly and yet another person on the stage only three meters away cannot hear a word. The audience accepts this as a known convention. The effect of this is that the audience continues to interpret and actively participate in the metadramatic constructs, and co-operating with the artificiality of the play thereby increasing their involvement and enjoyment in the play as a whole.Shakespeare is not afraid to parody his own work. When Hamlet meets the Players he begins to quote a passage. Note the style of the lines, "The rugged Pyrrhus, like th' Hyrcanian beast..." (Act II, scene ii, line 425) They are written in a pompous, mechanical formal style using exaggerated metaphors and similes: "With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrus / Old grandsire Priam seeks" (Act II, scene ii, lines 438-440) This style was much used by Shakespeare's earlier contemporaries, the sort of passionate speechifying Bottom makes use of in Midsummer:- "That will ask some tears in the true performing of it: if I do it, let the audience look to their eyes; I will move storms, I will condole in some measure. To the rest: yet my chief humour is for a tyrant:" (Act I, scene ii lines 21-25) This melodramatic over acting style however, is not that...

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