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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.


     Not seldom the conflict may quite naturally be conceived as lying between two persons, of whom the hero is one; or, more fully, as lying between two parties or groups, in one of which the hero is the leading figure. Or if we prefer to speak (as we may quite well do if we know what we are about) of the passions, tendencies, ideas, principles, forces, which animate these persons or groups, we may say that two of such passions or ideas, regarded as animating two persons or groups, are the combatants. The love of Romeo and Juliet is in conflict with the hatred of their houses, represented by various other characters. The cause of Brutus and Cassius struggles with that of Julius, Octavius and Antony. In Richard II the King stands on one side, Bolingbroke and his party on the other. In Macbeth the hero and heroine are opposed to the representatives of Duncan. In all these cases the great majority of the dramatis personae fall without difficulty into antagonistic groups, and the conflict between these groups ends with the defeat of the hero.

     Yet one cannot help feeling that in at least one of these cases, Macbeth, there is something a little external in this way of looking at the action. And when we come to some other plays this feeling increases. No doubt most of the characters in Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, or Antony and Cleopatra can be arranged in opposed groups;1 and no doubt there is a conflict; and yet it seems misleading to describe this conflict as one between these groups. It cannot be simply this. For though

   1The reader, however, will find considerable difficulty in placing some very important characters in these and other plays. I will give only two or three illustrations. Edgar is clearly not on the same side as Edmund, and yet it seems awkward to range him on Gloster's side when Gloster wishes to put him to death. Ophelia is in love with Hamlet, but how can she be said to be of Hamlet's party against the King and Polonius, or of their party against Hamlet? Desdemona worships Othello, yet it sounds odd to say that Othello is on the same side with a person whom he insults, strikes and murders.

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