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Pastoral and anti-pastoral elements in selected tragedies of Shakespeare.

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Audan, Thribhawandutt Ramnath.

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While a good deal of attention has been paid to pastoral and, less frequently, to antipastoral elements in Shakespeare's comedies and romances, the same does not hold for his tragedies. Granted, pastoral features, as one would expect, are not conspicuous in the tragic plays, but even their anti-pastoral ones have not received extended treatment. That is, they have not received extended treatment as anti-pastoral manifestations. So, for example, the furious tempest in King Lear has frequently been seen as a cataclysmic perturbation of Nature, and/or as an expression and reflection of Lear's condition, but only rarely as an anti-pastoral phenomenon. That is a gap this thesis seeks to fill. In treating of pastoral and its opposite in the three plays selected for study - King Lear, Macbeth and Othello - we have not been bound by a literal understanding of the genres in question. A broad interpretation has been preferred, in keeping with recent trends. Consequently, shepherds and shepherdesses will not be in evidence in the ensuing pages. Instead, the terms 'pastoral' and 'anti-pastoral' are understood to refer to such categories as setting, mood and attributes. Thus, for example, we spotlight the pastoral-like ambience of Macbeth's seat at Inverness when Duncan arrives there. The term 'pastoral' further implies attributes such as simplicity, mnocence, honesty, forthrightness, naturalness, loyalty, trustworthiness, trustfulness, decency, kindness, serenity, and a natural dignity, courtesy and modesty. The term 'anti-pastoral' implies a checklist of contrary qualities, few, if any, of them coloured by rural associations linked to the subgenre's historical development as a riposte to what was seen as pastoral's idealising falsification of the true conditions of rural life. Following an introductory chapter that offers a historical and theoretical sketch of the pastoral genre and the anti-pastoral reaction to it, each of the selected plays is accorded a close reading in terms of the pastoral and anti-pastoral criteria adumbrated above, with the emphasis falling, naturally enough, on anti-pastoral manifestations.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2003.


Shakespeare, William--Tragedies., Country life in literature., Theses--English.