Shakespeare and the Problem Play

Complex Forms, Crossed Genres and Moral Quandaries


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About the Book

Shakespeare’s plays provide a rich source of genre variation as well as moral or ethical issues that invite deep study. The genre issue often proves the very moral crux where Shakespeare raises the most complex questions. He aimed to build good plays, not simple fulfillments of genre demands. To him “good plays” meant leaving his audience with problems to consider.
This book begins with those works most commonly appearing in studies of problem plays, The Merchant of Venice, Troilus and Cressida, All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure; moves to some comedic problem plays, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Twelfth Night; and then to tragic problem plays, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear. It concludes with some problems in the history and romance genres for the issues they raise in love, adventure, and governance: Henry IV, Part 1, Henry V, Cymbeline, The Tempest, and Love’s Labor’s Lost.

About the Author(s)

E.L. Risden, emeritus professor of English at St. Norbert College, lives in De Pere, Wisconsin, where he continues to write literary and movie scholarship, speculative fiction, and occasional poetry.

Bibliographic Details

E.L. Risden
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7243-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0094-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface: The Idea of the Problem Play      1

1. The Merchant of Venice: Does Anybody Know the Quality of Mercy?      15

2. Troilus and Cressida and the Consummate Anti-Genre      42

3. All’s Well That Ends Well: Not Really      66

4. Straining the Quality of Mercy: Measure for Measure      90

5. Comedic Problem Plays      113

6. Tragic Problem Plays      144

7. History and Romance: Problems of Love, Adventure and Language      177

Chapter Notes      205

Bibliography      219

Index      221