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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 41
CONSTRUCTION

may roughly be divided into three parts. The first of these sets forth or expounds the situation,1 or state of affairs, out of which the conflict arises; and it may, therefore, be called the exposition. The second deals with the definite beginning, the growth and the vicissitudes of the conflict. It forms accordingly the bulk of the play, comprising the Second, Third and Fourth Acts, and usually a part of the First and a part of the Fifth. The final section of the tragedy shows the issue of the conflict in a catastrophe.2

     The application of this scheme of division is naturally more or less arbitrary. The first part glides into the second, and the second into the third, and there may often be difficulty in drawing the lines between them. But it is still harder to divide spring from summer, and summer from autumn; and yet spring is spring, and summer summer.

     The main business of the exposition, which we will consider first, is to introduce us into a little world of persons; to show us their positions in life, their circumstances, their relations to one another, and perhaps something of their characters; and to leave us keenly interested in the question of what will come out of this condition of things. We are left thus expectant, not merely because some of the persons interest us at once, but also because their situation in regard to one another points to difficulties in the future. This situation is not one of conflict,3 but it threatens conflict. For example, we see first the hatred of the Montagues and Capulets; and then we see

   1This word throughout the lecture bears the sense it has here which, of course, is not its usual dramatic sense.
   2In the same way a comedy will consist of three parts, showing the 'situation,' the 'complication' or 'entanglement,' and the denouement or 'solution.'
   3It is possible, of course, to open the tragedy with the conflict already begun, but Shakespeare never does so.

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