n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Heaven or havoc? The end of

Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



Ever since A.C. Bradley sought to explain "what actually happens in the play" (93), there has been widespread disagreement among Shakespearean scholars about what does actually happen in , and about what meaning to attach to the events of the play. In the broadest terms the critical debate divides into two lines of tradition. The first, which can be traced through C.S. Lewis, Maynard Mack, H.D.F. Kitto, G.B. Harrison, John Holloway, Kenneth Muir, Diana Devlin and others, interprets the play as the working out of divine purpose, or at least as justice finally being served and peace and order being restored. The second line, which includes G. Wilson Knight, L.C. Knights, Sydney Bolt, Eleanor Prosser and Graham Holderness, regards the play as presenting a rather darker and more problematic worldview. In this article, I offer a contribution to this debate by arguing that critics belonging to the second line do not go far enough - that in fact represents the blackest of all Shakespeare's tragedies and expresses a vision of life which is unrelentingly bleak and pessimistic.

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