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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Plot and Character Parallels
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0693  Thursday, 7 March 2002

From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Mar 2002 14:21:20 -0500
Subject:        Plot and Character Parallels

In the native tradition, the birth of the double plot seems to begin
with _The Second Shepherds' Play_ and then becomes a major structural
device in Tudor and Stuart drama.  The court and the tavern in _1H4_,
the two families in _Lear_, and so on. In later drama, parallel plots
are particularly skillful in _A Woman Killed With Kindness_ and _The
Changeling_, but there are many other examples.

The idea is so fruitful that it leads to lots of variations: the mirror
scenes in the _H6_ and _H4_ plays, the foils in _Hamlet_ and elsewhere,
the opposition of comic vs main plot, and so on.  As I remember, Richard
Levin wrote a book about double or multiple plots about twenty years
ago. It's very detailed and makes lots of good distinctions, although
Levin wants to insist that some oppositions are contrasts and some are
comparisons, though others would see things differently.

In early Tudor drama, the comic scenes in _Dr. Faustus_ involving Robin
and Dick are "paralleled" to the main plot in interesting ways, and may
be a comment on Faustus and how foolishly he is acting. Since any two
characters, situations, etc. have both similarities and differences,
interpreting the reason or reasons for parallelism is often a real
critical challenge.

--Ed Taft

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