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Universality of Doctor Faustus

Faustus is a tireless seeker after knowledge, forbidden and otherwise. He is the driving force of
curiosity and the ambitious yearning for control of knowledge and the universe that lurks within
all of humanity. He tests, as we would all like to test, the outer limits of worldly experience. He
enjoys, as sometimes we all do, the pleasures that societal taboos dictate as immoral or sinful.
Through his worldly achievement, he is admirable; through his outrageous desire to engulf himself
in the sensual delights at the expense of productive improvement of mankind, he is all too like
us. Faustus is sacrificed on the pyre of our longings and our failures as well as his own.

Faustus's self-deception, his overweening pride and his desires ring true for every man. In fact,
Doctor Faustus is the universal portrait of the dark side in each of us.

He is not nobly born but like us. We intersect his experience by sympathy, but we differentiate
ourselves from him in the extremity of his actions to satisfy his yearnings. He goes the distance for
us and in consequence suffers the anguish in his final hour on earth. We suffer the pity for him and
the terror for what he must suffer, but finally we are not he. The appeal of Doctor Faustus, then, is
as old as tragedy itself. For the willing participant who will pay attention to what he reads, the
rewards are immediate and require only sympathy and humanity.
A Summary of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus

Prologue by Chorus:

The chorus enters with clearly stating their intent of appearing on stage. They do not want to sing of
the battles of Roman gods nor do they want to praise the great heroes of the past. Instead, it is of the
mighty Faustus they want to talk about and introduce a bit about the man. Faustus had great
curiosity for knowledge and mastered many fields of knowledge and was awarded with doctor of
divinity for his Theological debates and comprehension of the divine material. After all the praise of
Doctor Faustus, the chorus sobs on the fact that he was absorbed by pride and went on to darker
realms of knowledge which were forbidden. He took Necromancy or the art of summoning spirits
as his subject which led to his demise.

Act – 1, Scene -1 (Reading room in the house):

Faustus, alone in his reading room disputes with himself as to which field of knowledge he wants to
pursue in the future. He thinks of logic, but then again stops as he reads about the ultimate
achievement of logic is to speak well in debates of all kinds.

“Is, to dispute well logic’s chiefest end?

Affords this art no greater miracle?”

He understands that he doesn’t need logic as he’s well-versed in the art of logical debates. Doctor
Faustus goes on with different fields considering Medical science, divinity, law and at the end turns
to the art of magic. His urge to become a god amongst men comes forth with learning the
powerful art, hence decides to practice magic. He asks his servant Wagner to call his friends
Cornelius and Valdes so that he can take advice in the matter.

As Wagner exits, good angel and evil angel enter, the former to ensure that Doctor Faustus doesn’t
end his life in damnation while the latter tries to influence him in pursuing the evil book of magic.
He becomes obsessed with the idea of getting unlimited power while on Earth which would
immortalize his name after death. Meanwhile, his friends visit and are delighted to know about
the interests of Faustus and give plenty of reading suggestions. Valdes, Cornelius and Faustus
decide to have a dinner and start with conjuring that night.

Act – 1, Scene – 2 (Before the house of Doctor Faustus):

Two scholars are looking for the whereabouts of their teacher Faustus and from their dialogues it is
apparent that Faustus has not been teaching for quite some time. They eventually find out that
Faustus is involved in studying Necromancy and is now involved with the necromancers Valdes and
Cornelius. The First Scholar believes that Faustus is doomed, whereas the other hopes there is still
hope and they decide to inform of the horrible matter to the Rector.
Act – 1, Scene – 3 (Grove):

Faustus has determined to offer his soul to the Devil. He begins the incantations and after the
invocation of the Devil is complete, Mephistopheles, the servant of Lucifer, appears. However, he
finds Mephistopheles too repulsive and asks the dark angel to disperse and come back with a neat
form. The devil returns in the form of a friar and asks Doctor Faustus of the purpose of incantation.
However, the curious doctor asks a lot of questions and asks Mephistopheles to serve as his slave.
The devil rejects the offer as it is Lucifer to whom the devil is obedient and without his permission
he cannot take such liberal decisions like serving others.

Mephistopheles explains that all devils are eager to appear whenever there is a conjuring of the
devil so that they can claim the soul of the conjuror. Faustus’ curiosity makes him a willing
individual to swear allegiance. Mephistopheles describes of the events that led to the downfall of
Lucifer and the others and describes that being separated from God is Hell. But, Faustus doesn’t
take the words of the devil into consideration and asks him to forward a message to Lucifer about
the willingness to offer his (Faustus's) soul. In exchange of the soul, Doctor Faustus asks the
obedience of Mephistopheles for 24-years and granting of limitless power. The devil exits and
Faustus wishes that if he had more souls like the number of the stars he would give them for being
the Emperor of the world and being treated as god amongst mortals.

Act – 1, Scene – 4 (Street):

(Christopher Marlowe, after revealing cosmic matters of Necromancy provides with a bit of comic
relief with Wagner in this scene.)

Wagner is seen to lure a clown into becoming his servant. Initially, he offers mutton for which the
clown refuses profoundly. He gives some money to the clown, but he tries to give them back.
However, Wagner who has learnt a few conjuring tricks himself and makes two demons appear. The
clown terrified at the sight of demons accepts to serve Wagner. He further asks his new master to
teach him magic. Wagner promises the clown to teach the art of changing oneself into animal.
However, if there be any disobedience Wagner warns the clown to conjure the demons again, which
makes the clown to follow Wagner in silence.

Act – 2, Scene – 1 (Faustus in reading room):

Faustus thinks of repenting and rethinks of his decision. He feels that it is too late to repent;
moreover, he sees Lucifer as a trustworthy Devil and decides to be resolute about his decision. As
he becomes resolute to build altars for the Devil; Good Angel and Bad Angel enter trying to
persuade Doctor Faustus to join their own side. However, the Bad Angel wins and leaves Faustus
to think of wealth, honour and position. He calls on Mephistopheles who comes with the news
that Lucifer has accepted the offer of Faustus.
Thrilled to hear the news, Faustus cuts his arm to write a blood covenant but his blood thickens and
Mephistopheles goes to obtain fire. Faustus thinks that the thickening of the blood is some sort of
warning to get him away from all the misdeeds. After the devil brings fire and makes the blood to
flow again, he completes the deed by writing with his blood. Suddenly, on his arm appears a two
word inscription – “Homo fuge” (Man fly). Faustus has misgivings but he knows there is no
turning back now. Mephistopheles in order to distract his new master arranges a dance of the
spirits who offer great gifts to Faustus. He becomes happy again and turns over the agreement to

After enjoying the presence of the spirits, Faustus asks Mephistopheles to bring a wife, but the devil
returns with a spirit dressed as a woman and explains the downsides of marriage. He falls for the
false interpretation of the devil and asks for books on spells, heavenly bodies and flora, which
Mephistopheles is quite happy to bring him.

Act – 2, Scene – 2 (Near an Inn):

The name of the Clown is revealed as Robin and he steals one of the magic books owned by Doctor
Faustus. The Clown, though is in possession of the book, cannot read but boasts of doing magic. He
gets into banter with a servant named Dick and later on they decide to head to a tavern.
Act – 2, Scene – 3 (Home of Faustus):

Faustus’ misgivings increase and he curses Mephistopheles for pursuing him to write the agreement.
However, Mephistopheles reiterates that it was Faustus who wanted to exchange his soul. Faustus
decides to repent when the Good Angel enters and encourages him. But, the Bad Angel intervenes
and tilts the interest of Faustus towards Hell again. He turns to Mephistopheles to discuss of the
constellations, heavens and planets. The devil gives out what all he could but denies to reveal about
the Creator of the world for which Faustus gets frustrated. He thinks of salvation again, but this time
Mephistopheles comes with Lucifer and Beelzebub.

They offer all kind of offerings to Doctor Faustus and Beelzebub summons “The Seven Deadly
Sins” to appease the man. Faustus expresses his desire to see Hell and Lucifer shows willingness
to take him to Hell that midnight. Before their departure, Beelzebub gives Faustus a book that
contains secret knowledge on how to transform oneself into any shape and the doctor is very


For the next many years Faustus uses and misuses his powers for his amusements. He declines
by playing pranks on others and having his fun. Christopher Marlowe through the actions of Faustus
provides a message that, with the unlimited power gained through forbidden means, man tends to
sway off the natural course and forgets the initial ambitions and turn up only to amuse oneself
rather than making use of the powers they acquired.


Act – 5, Scene – 1 (The study room of Doctor Faustus):

[Faustus stoops further and further, only to entertain the crowd and through the 24-years of
time he couldn’t achieve what he sought for initially.]

With great lightning and thunder Mephistopheles and other devils are seen on the stage with
Mephistopheles showing the way to reach Doctor Faustus.

Wagner expresses to the audience that the end is near for his master and he is ready for the final
journey. So, Faustus gives everything he has to Wagner by writing a will claiming that Wagner is
the sole possessor of all his properties. During his final day, Faustus is seen dining and making
merry with the three scholars. It is at this moment and at his last day of time he summons the Helen
of Troy. As the scholars exit, an Old Man comes in to warn the doctor. He asks the doctor to
repent and states that God will always do well for those who think of Him. However, the
thoughts of Faustus are fixed towards damnation and thinks it is too late.
The Old Man exits and Faustus contemplates on the sins he has done. Mephistopheles warns
Faustus to not vary with the pact or else he will tear the body of the doctor. Threatened by
Mephistopheles, Faustus asks the devil to torment the Old Man who created a delusion of happiness
in his mind. However, Mephistopheles clearly states that the Old Man is pure of heart and soul,
and such individuals cannot be harmed by devils. Unable to get his first request, Doctor Faustus
asks to summon Helen of Troy so that he can forget all that has happened and live in bliss for the
remainder of his time. Mephistopheles is happy to conjure the spirit of Helen of Troy and Faustus is
seen to be amused and filled with pleasure by the sight of her.

Act – 5, Scene – 2 (The study room of Doctor Faustus):

Lucifer, Mephistopheles and Beelzebub seem to be waiting for the clock to strike midnight so that
they can have the most valuable soul of Faustus.

Faustus and Wagner talk of the will written and Wagner expresses his joy and gratitude towards his
master. Meanwhile, the three scholars enter and the pact with the Devil is revealed. The first scholar
is confused as to why this was not revealed earlier? Faustus exclaims that the devils would have
tormented him physically. The third scholar doesn’t want to leave Faustus, but as it is too dangerous
the rest of the two convince him to not to stay. They tell Faustus that they will in the next room
praying for his welfare. Mephistopheles is blamed by Faustus by luring him into damnation
and the devil loves the fact that he could offer Lucifer such a soul as of Faustus’ to the Devil.

“Fools that laugh on Earth, must weep in Hell.” (Mephistopheles)

A final effort is made by the Good Angel by stating that Faustus can never have the gates of Heaven
open to him. She bids Faustus goodbye as there is no place in Hell for virtues and Faustus is
doomed to Hell. The Evil Angel terrifies Faustus by opening the gates of Hell.
As the clock strikes Eleven, Doctor Faustus has only an hour of life left and he starts to show signs
of remorse. He thinks of God and how even a half drop of Christ’s blood is enough to save his soul.

He envisions God being angry with him and he is rushed with a lot of horrible aspects which won’t
stop from terrifying his mind. He is angry with his parents, angry with himself and Lucifer also but
he is a helpless soul lost in the wilderness. He swam so deep into darkness that he cannot come back
to light again.

The time comes and with great lightning and thunder the devils enter. Doctor Faustus pleads to
dissolve his soul in air or water so that there is no chance for the devils to torment him.
However, in the late hour there is no help for Faustus and he is dragged away by the devils to

Act – 5, Scene – 3 (The study room of Doctor Faustus):

The Three Scholars disturbed by the devilish noises in the room where Faustus was left alone come
to see what has happened. Their prayers go in vain and they find the body of Doctor Faustus torn
from limb to limb in many pieces.

Epilogue by Chorus:

The chorus lament that a great potential like that of Doctor Faustus was cut short due to his longing
for unlawful knowledge. A man who was acclaimed to be an equal to Apollo himself brought
himself down to a mere conjuror who with ill knowledge couldn’t become wise and brought his
own destruction. The chorus emphasizes that the tragic end of Faustus should be a lesson to
anyone who dwell in understanding the forbidden fruits of knowledge.
Faustus' Sins

He makes empty promises to achieve goodness and greatness:

Faustus initially pretends in Act One to have an interest in greatness. ‘I will build a brass wall
around Germany to protect her; dress every student in silk; no one in all Wittenberg will go

Twenty four years later, his accomplishments do not reflect honourable deeds but the actions of
a lustful and impetuous man. He has asked Mephistopheles to help him ‘kill my enemies, help
my friends – make me Emperor of the World.’

Faustus is full of empty promises and presents falsities for his hopes of goodness -this is his decoy
for his true motives.

Indulges in the Seven Deadly Sins:

He does nothing to protect Germany or the poor. Instead he commits many mortal sins:

Pride (the mother of all sins: believing too much in our own abilities interferes with us
recognising the grace of God).

Faustus casts aside the doctrines available to him, scorning them for being too easy or simplistic for
him. He therefore is unsatisfied with being mortal, i.e., subject to the laws of nature and God. He
believes God will not give him the answers he deserves while he is on earth, so turns to Lucifer

Covetousness (the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual).

Faustus requests that Mephistopheles brings him ‘money, possessions and sensual delights’ every
day, temporal satisfactions that are nothing in comparison to what is promised by God.

Envy (the desire for others’ traits, status, abilities, or situation)

Faustus envies the Emperor, the Pope, Lucifer and even God for having power and status
beyond him. He summons Mephistopheles so that he can use him to have a power he hopes will
exceed the power of them all.

Anger (when love is overcome by fury)

Faustus is so furious at Benvolio’s mockery of him that he indulges in a petty act of spite by
conjuring a pair of antlers to appear on the man’s head.
When he cannot face the truth the Old Man offers him – that forgiveness is his if he asks God for it
– he becomes angry and asks Mephistopheles to call demons to torture the Old Man to his death.

Gluttony (an excessive desire to consume more than that which one requires)

At the end of his twenty-fourth year, with death close, Faustus is ‘swilling and revelling with his
students’ in a feast with ‘food and wine enough for an army’.

Lust (an excessive craving for the pleasures of the body)

The Old Man pleads with Faustus with love to repent and call on God’s mercy. Faustus, prizing
flesh over spirit, wastes his remaining time on lechery rather than heed his advice. He instructs
Mephistopheles instead to summon Helen of Troy for his lover. She is simply a likeness conjured
by the demon but Faustus tells her ‘rivals for your love can burn down Wittenberg’. Where is his
promise to protect Germany now?

Sloth (the avoidance of physical or spiritual work)

The slothful person, like Faustus, is unwilling to do what God wants because of the effort it
takes to do it. He summons Mephistopheles and signs the contract with Lucifer so he can have
knowledge, possessions and experiences on-tap without any effort on his part.

King Lear- Lear is an old man who has ruled for many years and enjoyed absolute power. We
assume that he has never been contradicted nor has his authority been challenged. He appears quite
shallow when we meet him first, seeking flattery from his daughters and not seeming to value true
love and devotion and believing that he can give up the responsibility of kingship while maintaining
the trappings and the power that goes with being a king. We know, however, that Cordelia, Kent and
Gloucester like and respect him so we feel there must be more to him than meets the eye.

Cordelia - Cordelia is, according to Lear, his youngest and his favourite daughter. She is difficult to
fully understand, as she is not very forthcoming with her emotions. Her refusal to declare her love
for Lear is puzzling - she appears almost cold. However, we soon learn that others, Kent and the
King of France, value her virtue and goodness and we begin to see that she is a truly good person;
she even shows tolerance and gentleness towards Goneril and Regan, despite knowing what kind of
people they are.

Goneril - Married to Albany, Lear's oldest daughter is ruthless, cruel and without morals. She holds
her mild husband in contempt, takes control of his army and has an affair with the evil Edmund.

Regan - Married to the evil Cornwall, Lear's middle daughter is every bit as cruel as her sister and
mirrors her in many ways, even having an affair with Edmund.

Gloucester - Gloucester mirrors Lear in the subplot. He misjudges his sons, believing Edmund
when he tells him that Edgar is plotting against him.

Although like Lear, he appears weak when we first meet him, he does prove later that he is capable
of bravery.

Edgar - Edgar (g = good) is Gloucester's legitimate son and the one who will inherit his estate. He
changes many times throughout the play – from the credulous brother to the mad beggar to the
brave hero. Like Cordelia, he is difficult to characterise.

Edmund - Edmund (m=mean/manipulative) Gloucester’s younger, illegitimate son. Edmund

resents his status as a bastard and plots to take his inheritance from Edgar. He is a clever, ruthless,
manipulative character, who almost succeeds completely in his evil schemes.

Kent - A nobleman and a loyal follower of Lear. Having been banished, he disguises himself as
'Caius'; a peasant who wants to serve Lear. Like the Fool, he is outspoken and frequently gets
himself into trouble for this trait.

Albany - Goneril's husband, Albany is essentially a decent man, and he eventually stands up to
Goneril, Regan, and Cornwall. However, he is a little weak and doesn't seem to be fully aware of all
that is going on until it is almost too late.

Cornwall - Regan's husband. Unlike Albany, Cornwall is a brutal man who aids his wife and
Goneril in their plots against Lear and Gloucester, seeming to relish the opportunity to persecute the
old men.

Fool - Lear’s jester. He uses his position to speak sense to Lear, even when it gets him into trouble.
Although he doesn't agree with much that Lear has done, he remains loyal to him throughout the
play and tries his best to protect him.
Oswald - The steward, or principal servant, in Goneril and Albany's house.

Oswald obeys all of Goneril's commands and helps her in her evil plots.

Plot Overview

The play opens with a conversation between the Earl of Gloucester and the Earl of Kent.
Gloucester tells Kent that he has two sons: Edgar, who is legitimate and the younger Edmund,
who is illegitimate. He jokes in a coarse way about Edmund's mother, not seeming to care that the
young man is present and can hear every word. (Gloucester and his two sons will provide the

King Lear enters and announces that he intends to retire and to divide his kingdom between his
three daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Before he does this, however, he demands that the
women declare their love for him publicly. Goneril and Regan flatter the king, telling him they
love him more than they can say. Cordelia, Lear's acknowledged favourite, grows increasingly
miserable as her turn approaches and when called upon, confesses that she cannot compete with
what her sisters have said. She says she loves Lear as any good daughter would love a father, but
no more. Lear, angry and publicly humiliated, banishes Cordelia and divides his entire kingdom
between Goneril and Regan. He calls Cordelia's two suitors, Burgundy and France, and asks
which of them will take Cordelia without a dowry. France is happy to do so and agrees to marry
her. The Earl of Kent stands up for Cordelia, urging Lear to reconsider and the king banishes him
also. Goneril and Regan confer privately, saying that if Lear becomes more troublesome with old
age, they will have to deal with him.

Meanwhile, Edmund begins to plot against his father and contrives to make the credulous
Gloucester believe that Edgar has written a letter urging his brother to help him to kill his father
so that the sons can share his wealth between them. Gloucester needs little persuading and is
quickly convinced that Edmund can be trusted and Edgar cannot.

Lear has planned to spend his retirement staying with first one daughter and then another; and
with this in mind, goes to Goneril's palace, bringing with him his one hundred knights. Kent,
disguised as Caius, meets Lear and is taken into his service. Lear is not treated with respect in his
daughter's home; Goneril has instructed her steward, Oswald to be rude to Lear and to encourage
the rest of her servants to treat him the same way. Lear is shocked when Oswald is impolite to
him and the loyal Kent/Caius trips Oswald, knocking him to the ground. Goneril appears and
complains that Lear's knights are rowdy and tells her father that he should only keep a small,
better-behaved troop with him. She suggests fifty knights as a more appropriate number. Lear
becomes outraged and storms out of her house, calling down terrible curses upon her. He says he
will go to Regan and that she will treat him with more respect. Already, Lear is beginning to
regret his rash decision to banish Cordelia. Goneril writes to Regan to tell her what has happened
with their father; and Regan, on receiving the letter, leaves for Gloucester's castle so she will not
be at home when her father comes to stay.
In the subplot, Edmund persuades Edgar that his father is very angry with him for some
undisclosed reason and advises Edgar to stay armed at all times. As Gloucester approaches, Edgar
cuts himself with his sword and tells his father that Edgar injured him in a fight. Gloucester is
shocked and vows to leave everything to Edmund instead of Edgar. Edgar, fleeing into the woods,
disguises himself as a mad beggar and calls himself 'Poor Tom'. Meanwhile, Kent arrives at
Gloucester's castle, seeking Regan and Cornwall in order to tell them that Lear is on his way. He
sees Oswald, the servant who was rude to Lear in Goneril's palace and picks a fight with him.
Oswald calls for help, and Cornwall and Regan place a furious and unrepentant Kent in the

Lear arrives at Gloucester's castle and is shocked to see his messenger, Caius (Kent) in the stocks.
Goneril arrives at the castle also and a dismayed Lear soon realises that both daughters have
joined forces against him. Enraged and highly agitated, he leaves the castle and with only the
Fool for company, prepares to spend the night outdoors in the storm. Lear and the Fool meet
Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom and the unlikely group prepare to spend the night together.

1 Stocks: A common form of punishment. Kent's legs would have been locked between two
boards and he would have been unable to move.
Back at the castle, Gloucester tells Edmund of a plot and that to save Lear, little knowing that his
son cannot be trusted. Sure enough, Edmund goes straight to Cornwall with the tale of
Gloucester's treason and is rewarded with his father's title and lands. Regan and Cornwall order
that Gloucester be captured and when he is brought before them, they treat him with horrific
cruelty. Cornwall, egged on by his wife, gouges out Gloucester's eyes. A servant who is nearby can
stand this no longer and attacks Cornwall. Regan stabs the servant to death but Cornwall is badly
wounded in the fight. The evil pair throws Gloucester out of his own castle but the injured
Cornwall succumbs to the injury inflicted on him by the servant and soon dies.

Edgar, still disguised as Poor Tom, is horrified to see his blinded father being led by a peasant and
offers to be the one to lead Gloucester to Dover, where the unfortunate man intends to jump off a
high cliff. Edgar pretends to Gloucester that they have reached the edge of the cliff and Gloucester
jumps, losing consciousness as he does so. In fact, he is on solid ground and when he awakes,
Edgar persuades him that he has survived an enormous fall. Oswald appears and tries to kill
Gloucester but is killed by Edgar. Before he dies, Oswald gives Edgar a letter for Edmund in
which Goneril asks Edmund to murder Albany and marry her.

Arriving home, Goneril discovers that Albany has taken Lear's side and is pleased that France is
planning to invade. Soon, Cordelia and her French army arrive in Dover and she is reunited with
her father. However, they are captured in the battle with the English and Edmund orders that they
be executed. Goneril, Regan and Albany join Edmund and a fight breaks out between the
disguised Edgar and his treacherous brother in which Edmund is mortally wounded. As he lies
dying, he confesses his guilt to Edgar and Edgar reveals his true identity to his brother, telling him
also that their father, Gloucester is dead. Meanwhile, Regan, poisoned by Goneril, dies also and
soon afterwards Goneril kills herself.

Edmund, just before he finally dies, admits that he and Goneril had ordered Lear and Cordelia
executed. However, his admission comes too late to save Cordelia, whose body is carried in by a
grief-stricken Lear. Lear cannot cope with this tragedy and dies as he holds her in his arms.

Albany tells Kent and Edgar that they must rule the kingdom between them but Kent refuses,
saying he is too old and Edgar is left to rule alone.
Key Quotations

Which of you shall we say doth love us most?

- Lear to his daughters

Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter, Dearer than eye-sight, space and liberty,
Beyond what can be valued, rich and rare.

- Goneril to Lear

Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again.

- Lear to Cordelia

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave

My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty

According to my bond, no more nor less

- Cordelia to Lear

Why have my sisters husbands, if they say

They love you all?

- Cordelia to Lear

And as a stranger to my heart and me

Hold thee, from this, for ever.

- Lear to Cordelia

Come not between the dragon and his wrath!

- Lear to Kent

…Only we still retain

The name, and all th’ addition to a king;

- Lear to Goneril and Regan

The bow is bent and drawn, make from the shaft.

- Lear to Kent

…Better thou

Hadst not been born than not t’ have pleased me better.

- Lear to Cordelia

She is herself a dowry.

- France to Burgundy

...I know you what you are

And, like a sister am most loath to call

Your faults as they are named.

- Cordelia to Goneril and Regan

…he hath ever but slenderly

Known himself.

- Goneril to Regan

We must do something, and i’ the heat.

- Goneril to Regan

Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.

- Edmund, in his soliloquy

…Edmund the base

Shall top the legitimate. I grow, I prosper; Now, gods stand up for bastards!

- Edmund, in his soliloquy

O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter! Abhorred villain!

Unnatural, detested, brutish villain!

- Gloucester, talking to Edmund about Edgar

A credulous father, and a brother noble,

Whose nature is so far from doing harms,

That he suspects none.

- Edmund, in his soliloquy

… Idle old man,

That still would manage those authorities

That he hath given away!

- Goneril to Oswald, talking about Lear

Doth any here know me? This is not Lear:

Doth Lear walk thus? Speak thus? Where are his eyes?

- Lear, when Goneril has complained about his knights and turned on him

O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!

Keep me in temper, I would not be mad.

- Lear

Now Edmund, where’s the villain?

- Gloucester, talking about Edgar

… you unnatural hags.

I will have such revenges on you both,

That all the world shall – I will do such things –

What they are yet I know not, but they shall be

The terrors of the earth!

- Lear, to Goneril and Regan

Here I stand, your slave,

A poor, infirm, weak and despised old man.

- Lear, to the storm

(There is no moral order as pure as the storm.)

I am a man more sinned against than sinning.

- Lear

Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?

- Lear, in his mock-trial of Goneril and Regan.

Out, vile jelly!

Where is thy lustre now?

- Cornwall, to Gloucester as he gouges out his eye.

O my follies! That Edgar was abused.

Kind gods, forgive me that, and prosper him.

- Gloucester, realising at last that he has wronged Edgar.

O Goneril!

You are not worth the dust which the rude wind

Blows in your face.

- Albany
Tigers, not daughters.

- Albany, referring to Goneril and Regan

Most barbarous, most degenerate,

- Albany, referring to Goneril and Regan

When we are born, we cry that we are come

To this great stage of fools.

- Lear

let this kiss

Repair those violent harms that my two sisters

Have in thy reverence made.

- Cordelia to the sleeping Lear

How does my royal Lord? How fares your Majesty?

- Cordelia’s respectful words to Lear as he wakes up

Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound

Upon a wheel of fire

- Lear to Cordelia

I am a very foolish, fond old man.

- Lear to Cordelia
Sin, Punishment and Redemption in King Lear

Human beings are born with sins. The characters cannot escape the deep-rooted original sin in
human’s nature, committing different kinds of sins. Second, God is fair to everyone. The
punishment follows their sins. The characters deserved their proper punishment accordingly.
Owing to their different sins, some experienced different kinds of sufferings; some lost their life;
some will be punished in the hell. Third, God punishes those who commit the sins, but he also
saves those who die for justice, and forgives those who repent. Suffering is the road leading to
being redempted. After those sufferings, people were saved.

The Sin in King Lear

Goneril, Regan and Edmund are devils if they were not human. Goneril and Regan persecuted their
old father, drove him out of their house, and left him homeless in the wilderness. They would be
willing to kill each other to be Edmund’s queen. They are selfish. Their blood is cold. Edmund
demands that all of his desires must be satisfied. His insatiable ambition extends past Cornwall to
English Throne.

Regarding Lear, he is an imperious, capricious, arrogant and self-centered king. In any case, he
welcomes poisoned flattery but interprets well-intended criticism, whether from Cordelia or Kent,
as treason. Lear’s ego seems fully capable of demanding the sacrifice from his daughters, especially
from his favorite, Cordelia; he has given them his whole kingdom, now let them care for him as
befits his royal rank and patriarchal role. Goneril and Regan are content to flatter and promise
obedience knowing that they will turn him out once he has relinquished his authority. Cordelia
senses that Lear is demanding love as payment for his parental kindliness. Genuine love ought
rather to be selfless. She refuses to lie like her sisters. So Lear misjudges his children and
disinherits his loving daughter in favor of his duplicitous daughters.

And Gloucester is another Lear. Without any clear evidence he wronged his virtuous son and fell
into prey to Edmund’s deceptions and disinherits him.

The Punishment in King Lear

In King Lear, none of the people who sinned can avoid the punishment of God. Regan is poisoned
to death by her sister Goneril. And Goneril commits suicide. Goneril and Regan have done too
many evil things. But they have not repented and asked for pardon until their death. They will be
punished in the hell. Edmund, whose soul is dead before his body dies, have done numerous evil
deeds. He is killed by his brother and deserved his punishment.

Regarding Lear and Gloucester, they experienced the hardship owing to their errors. Lear was
turned out into the storm by his two daughters and went mad; Gloucester is made physically
blinded because of his son Edmund’s betrayal.
The Redemption

Man has sinned from the beginning. And man’s sin will no doubt lead to the punishment from the
law on the Earth, God and the conscience. But it does not mean that man can not find a way out.
Man can be rescued through the repentance of their sins. God loves all those who regret for guilt.

Besides, hardship is the symbol of purgatory. One can also be rescued through the hardship he
experienced, and his soul will be purified. After the suffering, one may realize the truth thoroughly.
And in Shakespeare’s four principal tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth), each
hero finally realizes his misdeeds and obtains a deeper understanding of life.

The Redemption in King Lear

In King Lear, Lear and Gloucester are rescued through the suffering they have experienced. Lear’s
suffering is not without compensation. He learned the truth and discovered himself through his

When Lear recognized Cordelia after all of his suffering, he attempted to kneel down before her and
said, “I am a very old foolish fond old man.” and “I fear I am not in my perfect mind.” To kneel
down is a kind of true enlightenment, indicating the repentance in the bottom of his heart.

Gloucester learns a similar truth and expresses it in much the same way as Lear. Like Lear he has
driven into exile a virtuous child. Enlightenment comes only through suffering. Just as Lear
achieves spiritual wisdom when he goes mad, Gloucester achieves spiritual vision when he is
physically blinded. His eyes having been ground out by the heel of Cornwall’s boot, Gloucester
asks for Edmund only to learn that Edmund has betrayed him. Gloucester’s response, however, is
not to accuse Edmund of treachery but to beg forgiveness of the wronged Edgar.

Cordelia and Edgar are rescued by God because of their benevolence, leniency and universal love.
They both have forgiven and cherished their sinned fathers. And their love is one of the elements
that make their fathers grow spiritually. The power of their love, though learned too late to avert
catastrophe is at last discovered.

The love embodies Cordelia and Edgar’s final triumphs over the more anarchic and brutal forces
embodied by Regan and Goneril.

Edmund, whose soul is dead before his body dies, have done numerous evil deeds. But just as the
criminal who is crucified with Jesus together is converted to Jesus before he is put to death, he tells
Kent the secret order of killing Lear and Cordelia and helps them rescue Cordelia and Lear.
Therefore, he will not be tortured by the flame in the hell. He will be with the God in the heaven.
The School for Scandal as a Typical Comedy of Manners

Comedy of manners makes fun not so much of individual human beings and their humors as of
social groups and their fashionable manners. It is generally satirical, though in a good-natured way.
The comedy of manners is a highly artificial form of drama and is generally full of verbal wit. So,
like the typical comedy of manners, ‘The School for Scandal’ is a satire on the upper-class social
life of Sheridan’s time.

There are two main targets of satire in the play: one is scandal-mongering and the other is
hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Lady Sneerwell and her circle indulge in slanderous gossip about
their friends and their acquaintances and amuse us greatly by their combination of wit and malice.
Joseph Surface is the very embodiment of hypocrisy and self-righteousness, and he amuses us with
his intrigues and his double-dealing. In the end, both Lady Sneeswell and Joseph are thoroughly
exposed and subjected to great humiliation, and the exposure has an obvious moral.

All satires have a moral aim and the moral aim here too is unmistakable.

The School for Scandal is an entertaining play the interest of which depends mainly upon its
brilliant, witty dialogues and funny situations. This play is Sheridan’s masterpiece and it was his
greatest contribution to the English theatre of his time. In this play, Sheridan revealed the
selfishness, envy, hypocrisy of the society of the time with remarkable skill and a sure knowledge
of theatrical effect. He captured the current forms of fashionable speech and heightened them with
fine phrases and sustained wit. His characters delighted an audience and made it think.

Elaborate discussion:

Comedy of manners exposes the follies, affectation, vanity, hypocrisy and the love intrigue of the
people of the upper-class society. The purpose of the dramatist is not only to expose them or to
bring on the front but also to correct the follies by ridiculing them. It is generally satirical, through
full of witty language and funny situations.

The School for Scandal is one of those comedies which gives us an interesting picture of the upper-
class life of the age of Sheridan. Various aspects of that society are satirized in the play. We have a
satirical treatment of gossip-mongering, hypocrisy, love intrigues, extravagance and a craze for
fashion. In addition to the satire on the life of the upper-class people, Sheridan also ridicules the
money-lenders of the time and their greed.

Sheridan displays his mastery over wit in the very opening scene of the drama, where Lady
Sneerwell is discussing her scandal-mongering with Mr Snape. The scene gives us an idea of how
the ladies and gentleman in those days indulged in scandalous gossiping about their acquaintances
and friends. It clearly reveals why the play has been given the title “The School for Scandal”. Lady
Sneerwell, Mrs Candour, Sir Benjamin Backbite and Mr Crabtreeare, all scandal mongers, who
take pleasure in circulating slanderous stories about persons of their acquaintance. Lady Sneerwell
is undoubtedly the supremo of “The School for Scandal”, with her house as its headquarters. Sir
Peter Teazle who is opposed to this kind of gossiping wonders that how these people can talk
maliciously about those with whom they are so intimate. They even spread false stories about those
with whom they dine twice a week. Sir Peter rightly says that every word they speak destroys the
reputation of some individual. Mr Snake, though a writer and a critic, assists Lady Sneerwell in her
efforts to define people by circulating wrong notions about them and by having such stories
published in the gossip-columns of the newspapers.
One of the most important characters in the play is Joseph Surface who proves to be an embodiment
of hypocrisy and pretentious morality. He is always expressing sympathy for the financial
difficulties his brother Charles is going through, but in fact, he himself is trying to do the utmost
damage to the reputation of his brother. He affects the false sympathy for Sir Peter Teazle when
Teazle tells him that he is unhappy because of his suspicion that his wife is having a love affair with
Charles. Actually, Joseph himself is the man trying to develop a love affair with Mrs Teazle. The
exposure of his hypocrisy takes place in the famous screen scene which is one of the most
entertaining episodes in the play.

The School for Scandal does have its share of love intrigues which were common in the comedy of
manners. Lady Sneerwell is in love with Charles Surface and she joins hands with Joseph to hinder
the marriage of Maria with Charles. Joseph celebrates with Lady Sneerwell in this intrigue because
he himself wishes to marry Maria, not because he is in love with her but she will bring a rich dowry.
Well, Lady Sneerwell and Joseph fail in their initial efforts and then they resort to another intrigue:
they make an allegation that Charles is solemnly pledged to marry Lady Sneerwell. But this strategy
also fails. In the meantime, Joseph tries to develop a love affair with Lady Teazle also; fortunately,
she is saved from degrading herself by the unexpected arrival of Sir Peter Teazle just at the right

Sheridan makes fun of those young men who used to get hazily into debt for which they would have
to pay heavy rates of interest. This class of young man is well represented by Charles and his
companions. At the very outset of the play we hear of Charles’s heavy debts and the court has taken
a step against him. Later we find him seeking fresh loans and making merry. He goes so far as to
sell his family portraits in order to raise money. The scenes in which these aspects of Charles
character are depicted provide hilarious comedy in the play. The author’s satirical intention is
obvious here, even though Charles does have his redeeming qualities, i.e. his benevolence and his
genuine affection for his uncle Sir Olives.

The craze for fashion receives a satirical treatment by the author in the person of Lady Teazle.
When Sir Peter criticizes Lady Teazle for being extravagant, she says, “My extravagance, I’m sure,
I’m no more extravagant than a woman of fashion ought to be.” Lady Teazle is of the view that
women of fashion are not answerable to anybody after they are married. There is a plenty of humor
in the scenes in which Lady Teazle and Sir Peter are shown quarreling and Lady Teazle’s devotion
to fashion is an important aspect of these quarrels.

Sheridan also pokes fun at contemporary journalism. In the very opening scene, we have a satirical
reference to the gossip columns of a newspaper called “The Town and Country Magazine” which
gladly published slanderous news items pertaining to well-known personalities of the societies. On
the whole, Sheridan has portrayed the manners of the time within a small frame of this comedy
skillfully and has been successful in his idea of correcting the follies prevalent in the society by
ridiculing them.
The Screen Scene

The action of Richard Sheridan’s play The School for Scandal culminates in the screen scene, where
the screen as a dramatic device becomes the momentum for action and reveals the hidden
background of behaviour, set of values and the way of speech.

It is set in the library of Joseph Surface’s house, where Joseph Surface meets Lady Teazle. Sir
Peter’s and Joseph Surface’s conversation is about Lady Teazle who can overhear every word
behind a screen. This scene forms the climax of the play because several streams of actions come
together here.

As Lady Teazle is the focus of interest in this scene and as an obvious development of her character
and attitude can be observed here, it is advisable to analyse her person and behaviour first as it is
shown in the play before the screen scene. On the one hand, Lady Teazle is a member of the School
for Scandal. It is a club, which lives on the assumption that all its members are not obliged to earn
money as they are in a social position which allows them to do so. It is a club which mirrors the
aristocratic society in Europe towards the end of the 18th century. Lady Teazle achieved such a
position through her marriage with Sir Peter.

The set of values of the club around Lady Sneerwell is quite opposite to that commonly accepted:
truth is perverted and false sentiment propagated. Lady Teazle soon gets accustomed to this style of
fashion and derives pleasure from it. She quickly commands the new rule of "fashion" (p.14), which
raises wit and slander to a status of art. The various forms of scandal-mongering or better to say
"the murder of characters" (p.22) are considered to be characteristic of high culture and wit. The so-
called "freedom of speech" (p.15) is to Lady Teazle something different from what it means to her
virtuous husband. It is the same with Lady Sneerwell, the president of the club, who finds pleasure
to employ her "envenomed tongue" (p.2).

On the other hand, Lady Teazle is also outlined in her former appearance. Sir Peter recollects her as
"the daughter of a plain country squire" (p.14), who lived far away from "a woman of fashion, of
fortune, of rank". She had to work so that there was no time for idleness and a fashionable life. This
juxtaposition of the two characters of Lady Teazle – one in the past and one in the present after the
marriage - makes the transformation in Scene IV credible.

In Scene IV, the screen is visible as a material thing and prop to everyone for the first time. In
Joseph Surface’s library, a suitable setting of the witty scene, the spectators perceive a screen,
which is a piece of furniture typical in that time, but even more assumes an obvious double
function: It hides and protects, but as soon as it is moved it can show or betray the person behind it.
It is now important how the theme of hiding and betraying, which is implied throughout the play,
can be referred to the screen and gives this piece of furniture a metaphorical meaning. The
spectators’ attention is drawn to the screen when Joseph Surface orders his servant to move it
towards the window in order to evade his neighbour’s curiosity. The screen’s function is firstly to
protect Joseph, but at the same time, it also shows that Joseph Surface wants to hide something
from the public. He needs a room of his own in which he will not be observed when pursuing his
plan. The screen excludes natural light, at least to a certain extent, so that artificial light becomes
Lady Teazle has a fancy to follow the fashion of having a lover (p. 21) and Joseph Surface tries to
take advantage of her weakness. Without telling her that he solely intends to use her as a means to
win over Maria, he makes up the paradoxical doctrine that she "…must part with virtue to secure
her reputation" (p.48) and is just about to persuade her, when Sir Peter interrupts this tête-á-tête1
unexpectedly. The screen remains the only chance for Lady Teazle to hide.

In the subsequent part of this scene, a new situation develops due to the screen. Beginning with Sir
Peter’s appearance, the screen does no longer only hide things but reveals things. Sir Peter who
does not suspect his wife listening behind the screen tells the truth about his life in marriage so that
Lady Teazle finds "a source of knowledge" (p.49) in the screen. She becomes aware of Lady
Sneerwell’s and Joseph Surface’s intrigue and even more important, she hears Sir Peter telling his
false friend Joseph how he cares for his young wife. She begins to see her husband’s true character.

The announcement of Sir Charles’ arrival gives the action a new turning point concerning all
persons already present on the stage. A second hiding-place has to be found at once for Sir Peter in
order to keep up the screen’s function of protection for a while. He hides in a closet as "inquisitor"
and "to take evidence incognito"(p.54), while Lady Teazle behind the screen can "hear it out"

A masterpiece of comedy acting, the peeping out of two hidden persons, is made possible by the
doubled screen, namely the screen and the closet. This leads towards the question of the relationship
between Charles Surface and Lady Teazle (2nd plot), which is closely related to the relationship of
Joseph Surface to Lady Teazle (1st plot) as well as the relationship of Sir Charles and Maria (3rd
plot). Now the screen only hides the identity of the woman behind. Everything else has been
revealed with the help of the screen.

Joseph Surface has lost control of his manipulation of the truth. His web of lies is torn apart by his
brother Charles, who moves the screen ("throws down the screen"). The play of "hide and seek"
(p.55) finds an end and Joseph Surface has to admit that he has lost the power over "his difficult
hand to play" (p.47). Charles instead remains a man of truth and leaves the persons to themselves.

Lady Teazle is for the first time excluded to a certain extent from society by the screen. She cannot
behave as she is used to, she cannot speak freely or argue, she is forced to listen to everything that
is said from a distance. In her husband’s words she perceives something that has been concealed to
her up to now, so that "tenderness…penetrate[s] … [her] heart" (p.56). When going behind the
screen she realises how dangerous it is to follow fashionable manners blindly. She knows that she is
going to act differently in the future. She does not finish her sentence "- and if ever I’m imprudent
again-" (p.49) because she has to hide quickly. A further indication that she might be transformed is
the way she addresses Joseph as "Mr Logic" (p.49) shortly before she is separated through the
screen. Though she does not define a new set of values against Joseph’s values, it seems already to
be a beginning of growing doubts and her consequent transformation.

After the whole truth has been revealed – symbolically shown in the overthrow of the screen – Lady
Teazle is determined to continue her original way and reset her values. She does not say many
words but what she says is like a confession. She has gained some critical distance from herself
which is evident in her words: "… She has recovered her senses" (p.56). The set of values Lady
Teazle accepts now is the same as appreciated by Sir Peter and Sir Charles, contrasting those of
Joseph Surface and the School for Scandal. The play shows two entirely different attitudes: on the
one hand values like "truth", " heart", "tenderness", "sense", "sincerity" (Lady Teazle), "conscious"
(Sir Peter), on the other hand the characteristics of Joseph Surface being "a man of [false]
sentiment", "Mr Logic", "being despicable" and "a smooth-tongued hypocrite" (Lady Teazle).

1 Tête-á-tête: a private conversation between two people.

Through the screen, a common piece of furniture at that time, the entangled world is put in order

When analysing the play from the point of view of its time of origin, Sheridan’s play The School
for Scandal must be called witty, amusing and convincing. The motif of the comedies of manners in
the late 18th century was not love, but fashionable society. If love were the motif, Lady Teazle’s
transformation would in fact not be as persuasive. But neither Lady Teazle nor her husband expects
such a relationship. Sir Peter’s statement "I can’t make her love me" (p.15) still exists, but both will
show more understanding for each other in the future.
The Central Theme of Education in Shaw’s Pygmalion

The contribution of Bernard Shaw to the modern English drama is significant. He discusses a
serious problem of the contemporary society as intensely as he can. Therefore, the readers call his
plays ‘Comedies of Purpose’.

In writing plays, Shaw had the deliberate object of converting the society to his views and ideas. He
had no other incentive to write plays.

Education is enlightenment. Like a rainbow, it unfurls many hues, right from child development up
to higher education. It is not reading books but understanding. It is the art of imparting knowledge,
not thrusting knowledge into the unwilling throat.

Pygmalion is a complex work of art with a number of themes. But its central theme is the education
of Eliza Doolittle. She rises from ignorance and darkness to spiritual light through successive stages
of despair, self-realization, illumination and social identity.

Eliza Doolittle is introduced in the play as an illiterate ignorant girl selling flowers in Convent
Garden. She speaks the kind of Cockney which only the native Londoners can understand. At this
stage, she is crude and saucy.

Eliza requests a gentleman to buy flowers from her. But the gentleman gives her three pence and
moves away from her without taking any flowers. A bystander advises her to give some flowers to
the gentleman who has given her money. He says that a person is watching her from a distance and
taking notes, and he might be a detective. She might be arrested for soliciting customers in the
street. At this, the flower-girl is both frightened and irritated. She remarks that she is a poor girl
who earns her living honestly and means no harm. She only spoke to the gentleman to buy some
flowers from her and uttered no other word.
She says:
I aint done nothing wrong by speaking to the gentleman. I’ve a right
to sell flowers if I keep off the kerb. I am a respectable girl: so help
me, I never spoke to him except to ask him to buy a flower off me.
(Pygmalion: 10-11)

The note-taker takes notes through her speech. He reads, reproducing her pronunciation exactly. He
says, “Cheer ap, keptin; n’baw ya flahr orf a pore gel”. (Pygmalion: 12)

Eliza protests that she cannot be arrested and driven on the streets for speaking to a gentleman. She
defends herself saying that she is like any other moral woman. She says:

He’s no right to take away my character. My character is the same to

me as any lady’s.
(Pygmalion: 14)
Colonel Pickering, who is also a student of Phonetics, has come to London all the way from India to
meet Professor Higgins. He meets Higgins during his encounter with Eliza; he expresses his
happiness over meeting him. He stays in Higgins’ house. Colonel Pickering is proud of the fact that
he can pronounce as many as twenty-four distinct vowel sounds but he is much surprised to find
that Professor Higgins can distinguish among as many as one-hundred-and-thirty distinct vowel

Now Eliza is ambitious. She wants to rise high in life, at least to become a salesgirl in a flower

The very next day, Eliza calls on Prof. Higgins and expresses her desire to take lessons in
Phonetics. But Higgins thinks she has come there as an object of his experiment. So he dismisses
her saying that he has already recorded what he wanted of her dialect. Then Eliza tells him that she
has come there to take lessons on pronunciation from him. She finds fault with him for not having
offered her a seat. She says that she is prepared to pay him like any other lady. Higgins accepts her
(as the object of an experiment) as his student. But he tells her that he is a strict disciplinarian. He
remarks “If I decide to teach you, I’ll be worse than two fathers to you” (Pygmalion: 25)

Higgins says to her first she must talk grammar. This is an easy way to improve her pronunciation.
She tells Higgins, “I don’t want to talk grammar. I want to talk like a lady in a flower-shop”
(Pygmalion: 29). Higgins decides to transform the shabby flower-girl into a fashionable lady.

The process of education seems difficult to Eliza in the beginning. First, she has to be scrubbed,
cleaned and dressed decently. Eliza feels shy and even frightened to take a bath naked. But Mrs
Pearce, the housekeeper of Prof. Higgins, manages to make her decent physically.

To Mrs Pearce, Higgins says that his job is only to teach Eliza Phonetics and make her a
fashionable lady. When the job is over, they can throw her back into the gutter. Till then it is her job
to take care of herself. Since Eliza has courage, talents and determination, she faces the ordeal
boldly. As her education proceeds, she realizes that the difference in a flower-girl is not how she
behaves but how she is treated. Higgins continues to treat her as a low-class flower-girl.

In the third Act of the play, Eliza’s progress in her education is tested. She is dressed like a lady,
behaves like a lady and all are impressed. Eliza of Act III is quite different from the flower girl of
Act I but her education is not yet complete. Her small talk betrays her social background. She has
not yet learnt what a lady should talk in a social gathering. She talks about matters which easily
betray her low origin, though her language is almost flawless.

Higgins teaches her to pronounce English correctly and also to dress elegantly and cultivate fine
manners. He has done all this over a long period of time and the girl has caused him a lot of trouble.
Prof. Higgins has thrown a bet to Pickering that he would turn Eliza off into a Duchess in six
months. He started the experiment a few months before and she is getting on very quickly. Higgins
is hopeful of winning the bet. Eliza is learning almost a new language. While telling his mother
about Eliza’s quickness in learning, Higgins remarks:

She has a quick ear; and she’s been easier to teach than my middle-
class pupils because she’s had to learn a complete new language. She
talks English almost as you talk French.
(Pygmalion: 53)
After a few months, Higgins invites Eliza to Mrs Higgins’ home to check how she conducts herself
and what impression she leaves on his mother’s friends from the fashionable society. He has
advised Eliza to keep strictly to two statements only – ‘Fine day’ and ‘How do you do’. In his
mother’s house, Mrs Higgins tells Higgins that Eliza is a triumph of his art and also of the art of her
dress-maker but every sentence that Eliza uttered had given her away (revealed her true origin).

Higgins continues to give Eliza lessons in Phonetics. After six months, Eliza is taken to the party of
an ambassador. Now she is able to pass off not merely as a Duchess, but as a princess with royal
blood in her veins. All are deceived by her lady-like manners and department.

During the course of her education in Phonetics, her soul has been awakened and she has
progressed from spiritual darkness to light. The hidden possibilities of her soul have been fully
developed. She is completely transformed spiritually, and that is the real education. She now seeks
social identity. Her soul has been awakened and she is aware of the problem that now faces her. She
cannot return to her old position. Nor she belongs to the middle-class society. She is filled with
despair. She must belong and such belongingness is for social happiness.

Eliza begins to seek for emotional fulfillment. After the Ambassador party, Higgins does not treat
her as a Duchess. So Eliza decides not to stay in Higgins’ house even a moment longer.

Professor Higgins has completed his experiment and she is no longer of any use to him. She asks
him in a fit of anger,

What am I fit for? What have you left me fit for? Where am I to go?
What am I to do? What to become of me?
(Pygmalion: 76)
As A.C. Ward points out,

Eliza’s cry is more poignant than she knew, for it has been echoed by
many who have been educated art of their class only to be set adrift.
(Men and Books: 92)

Being a common ignorant girl, Eliza has to be very careful in her place. Nor can she mingle with a
fashionable society. She requests Higgins to tell her what belongs to her and what does not belong
to her. She leaves Higgins’ house before Higgins and Pickering get up from bed the next morning.

Higgins is in difficulty because he does not know what appointment he has and what things he
needs, for Eliza looked after these matters. He depended upon her and now he feels helpless,

But I can’t find anything. I don’t know what appointment I’ve got.
(Pygmalion: 84)
There is much difference between Higgins and Pickering in their attitude towards Eliza. Prof.
Higgins has taught her language and fine matters but that is his profession. But he always treats her
as a flower girl. But from the very beginning, Pickering treats Eliza like a lady and it is from him
she has learned real manners, attitude and conduct of a lady. It is this which has changed her
completely that she can no longer be a flower girl. She tells Pickering:

The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she
behaves, but how she’s treated. I shall always be a flower girl to
Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and
always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always
treat me as a lady and always will.
(Pygmalion: 93-94)
While Pickering is much alarmed at her decision to leave them, Prof. Higgins
exclaims angrily, “Let her go. Let her find out how she can go on without us. She
will relapse into the gutter in three weeks without me at her elbow.” (Pygmalion: 94)

Eliza, the modern Cinderella has suffered terribly at the hands of her stepmother, her father, Higgins
and even Mrs Pearce, the housekeeper. But her soul has not been crushed. She does not lose her
vitality and spirit. Some fairy godmother as in the Cinderella story comes to her rescue and
everything is set right. As she comes out of the house of Higgins at midnight, she meets Freddy a
romantic young man, passionately in love with her. When Eliza is determined to marry Freddy,
Higgins does not welcome the idea, because according to him, Freddy is a fool. But Eliza opposes
his idea.
If he’s weak and poor and wants me, may be he’d make me happier
than my betters that bully me and don’t want me.
(Pygmalion: 101)

Eliza marries Freddy and sets up a flower shop with the help of Colonel Pickering.

Thus, Eliza undergoes a course of education in the play. In the process, she is not only made a lady,
her soul is also awakened. She has acquired self-confidence and that search for identity and
belongingness which was the most serious problem that confronted her after Higgins’ experiment
had been successfully completed.


Shaw’s personality is a unique combination of the gay and serious. He is regarded as the father of
theatre of ideas in England. His plays are sermons on social follies and vices.

Shaw is one of the most successful delineators of characters. The characters of both Higgins and
Eliza are memorable. Both these characters have been endowed with life by the dramatist. The habit
of swearing, losing his temper at the slightest provocation, his consciousness of himself as a
Professor of Phonetics, his love for his mother and his devotion to his profession make Higgins a
living personality whom the readers love as well admire. Eliza too has been convincingly drawn,
first as an ignorant, illiterate flower girl and then a fine lady who she becomes. The transformed
Eliza surprises the readers by the proficiency which she has acquired in speaking English and in
behaving like a born princess.
Eliza’s Education and Quest for Identity

Eliza’s education has made her a lady, and so she cannot go back to her former environment and
sell flowers as she used to do. She has been cut off from her earlier environment. She has become a
lady and has lost her earlier identity. Eliza is confronted with the problem of loss of identity and
alienation. She must search for belongingness in the new social environment to which she has been
raised by her education. She has been alienated from her earlier social environment and now her
quest is for identity and belongingness in the higher social environment to which she has been

In Pygmalion, education is used as a tool for emancipating working class individuals. Eliza gets
uprooted and has to give up personal features. Language is linked up with identity and finds a new
identity through education.

Eliza’s transformation demonstrates that social distinctions such as accents, age, class barriers can
be overcome by language training. It becomes questionable however if language reveals or forms
one’s character. Eliza’s outcry at the end of the play denies the idea. Yet she understands herself that
better education is connected with social progress. Eliza’s problems show that language alone
provides a superficial transformation. She needed more than just language to become fully

Eliza was not a dunce. She was inherently intelligent. Higgins cannot claim to have made Eliza. All
that he gave to Eliza is her language. Even before she met him, she possessed intelligence, dignity
and individuality. After all the education she received from Higgins, she is able to express herself
better. Higgins’ contribution in the making of Eliza is not a bit more and not a bit less than this.

Thus, it is clear that Eliza’s inherent quality of intelligence has been shaped by education that she
acquired from Higgins.
Pygmalion Some Important Quotes

1. “He's no right to take away my character. My character is the same to me as any lady's”
(Act I, p. 26).

Eliza begins her constant striving with Higgins to maintain her own dignity and respect, even as a
flower girl in Covent Garden.

2. “A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere—
no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of
articulate speech” (Act I, p. 27).

Higgins scolds Eliza for her animal-like Cockney dialect.

3. “Is she to have any wages? And what is to become of her when you've finished your
teaching? You must look ahead a little” (Act II, p. 44).

Mrs Pearce, the housekeeper, tries to make Higgins be reasonable towards Eliza's future, but he
only thinks of her as an interesting experiment.

4. “It was a silly notion: the whole thing has been a bore” (Act IV, p. 98).

Higgins thoughtlessly complains to Pickering after the embassy ball that the entire six months
teaching Eliza has been boring. For her, it has been a life-changing experience in which she came to
care for her teachers. Her feelings are hurt.

5. “I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me I'm not fit to sell
anything else” (Act IV, p. 103).

Eliza is worried after she has been made into a lady what will become of her. Higgins suggests she
can get married or something. He does not understand her concern, because he is finished with his

6. “I tell you I have created this thing out of the squashed cabbage leaves of Covent Garden:
and now she pretends to play the fine lady with me” (Act V, p. 121).

Higgins takes credit for creating Eliza's character as a lady and yet does not take her seriously.

7. “Yes: you can turn round and make up to me now that I am not afraid of you, and can do
without you” (Act V, p. 132).

Eliza rejects Higgins and strikes out for her own life. This makes Higgins shift his attitude towards
her. Suddenly, he appreciates she is a real person.
Literary Terms

1. Liturgical Plays

The medieval period in Europe (A.D. 476-1500) began with the collapse of Rome, a calamity of
such magnitude that the years between then and the beginning of the Crusades in 1095 have been
traditionally called the Dark Ages. Historians used this term to refer to their lack of knowledge
about a time in which no great central powers organized society or established patterns of behavior
and standards in the arts.

Drama, or at least records of it, disappeared. The major institution to profit from the fall of the
Roman empire was the Roman Catholic Church, which in the ninth and tenth centuries enjoyed
considerable power and influence. Many bishops considered drama a godless activity, a distraction
from the piety that the church demanded of its members. During the great age of cathedral building
and the great ages of religious painting and religious music – from the seventh century to the
thirteenth – drama was not officially approved. Therefore, it is a striking irony that the rebirth of
drama in the Western world should have taken place in the heart of the monasteries, developing
slowly and inconspicuously until it outgrew its beginnings.

The Church may well have intended nothing more than the simple dramatization of its message. Or
it is possible that the people may have craved drama, and the Church's response could have been an
attempt to answer their needs. In either event, the Church could never have foreseen the outcome of
adding a few moments of drama to the liturgy, the church services. Liturgical Drama began in the
ninth century with tropes, or embellishments, which were sung during parts of the Mass (a religious
ceremony). The earliest known example of a trope, called the Quem Quaeritis ("Whom seek ye?"):

ANGEL: Whom seek ye in the sepulchre, O ye Christians?

THREE MARYS: Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, O ye Angels.
ANGEL: He is not here; he is risen as he has foretold.
Go, announce that he is risen from the sepulchre.

Tropes like the Quem Quaeritis evolved over the years to include a number of participants – monks,
nuns, and choirboys in different communities – as the tropes spread from church to church
throughout the Continent. These dramatic interpolations never became dramas separate from the
Mass itself, although their success and popularity led to experiments with other dramatic sequences
centering on moments in the Mass and in the life of Christ. The actors in these pieces did not think
of themselves as specialists or professionals; they were simply monks or nuns who belonged to the
church. The churchgoers obviously enjoyed the tropes, and more were created, despite the Church's
official position on drama.

Once dramatic scenes were added that took the action outside of the liturgy, it was not long before
dramas were being staged outside the church. The Anglo-Norman drama Adam, dating from the
twelfth century, has explicit stage directions establishing its setting outside the church. The play is
to be staged on the west side of the church with a platform extending from the steps. The characters
of Adam, Eve, God, and the Devil and his assistants are given costumes and extensive dialogue.
The dramatic detail in this play implies a considerable development of plot and action, which,
despite its theological matter, is plainly too elaborate to be contained within the service of the Mass.
2. Mystery and Miracle Plays

Miracle Plays

Once outside the church, the drama flourished and soon became independent, although its themes
continued to be religious and its services were connected with religious festivals. Miracle Plays on
the subject of miracles performed by saints developed late in the twelfth century in both England
and on the Continent. Typically, these plays focused on the Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas, both of
whom had strong followings during the medieval period. Mary is often portrayed as helping those
in need and danger – often at the last minute. Some of those she saved may have seemed unsavory
sinners to a pious audience, but the point was that the saint saved all who truly wished to be saved.

Mystery Plays

The Church did not ignore drama after it left the church buildings. Since the plays had religious
subject matter and could be used to teach the Bible and to model Christian behavior, they remained
of considerable value to the Church. First performed by the clergy, these religious plays dramatized
the mystery of Christ.

Among the best-known mystery plays is the somewhat farcical The Second Shepherds' Pageant,
which is both funny and serious. It tells of a crafty shepherd named Mak who steals a lamb from his
fellow shepherds and takes it home. His wife, Gill, then places it in a cradle and pretends it is her
baby. Eventually, the shepherds – who suspect Mak – smoke out the fraud and give Mak a blanket-
tossing for their trouble. But after they do so, they see a star in the heavens and turn their attention
to the birth of baby Jesus, the Lamb of God. They join the Magi and come to pay homage to the
Christ Child.

3. Morality Plays

Morality Plays were never part of any cycle but developed independently as moral tales in the late
fourteenth or the early fifteenth century on the Continent and in England. They do not illustrate
moments in the Bible, nor do they describe the life of Christ or the saints. Instead, they describe the
lives of people facing the temptations of the world. The plays are careful to present a warning to the
unwary that their souls are always in peril, that the devil is on constant watch, and that people must
behave properly if they are to be saved.

One feature of morality plays is their reliance on Allegory, a favorite medieval device. Allegory is
the technique of giving abstract ideas or values a physical representation. In morality plays,
abstractions such as goodness became characters in the drama. In modern times we sometimes use
allegory in art, as when we represent justice as a blindfolded woman. Allegorically, justice should
act impartially because she does not "see" any distinctions, such as those of rank or privilege, that
characterize most people standing before a judge.

The use of allegory permitted medieval dramatists to personify abstract values such as sloth, greed,
daintiness, vanity, strength, and hope by making them characters and placing them onstage in
action. The dramatist specified symbols, clothing, and gestures appropriate to these abstract figures,
thus helping the audience recognize the ideas the characters represented. The use of allegory was an
extremely durable technique that was already established in medieval painting, printed books, and
books of emblems, in which, for example, sloth would be shown as a man reclining lazily on a bed
or greed would be represented as overwhelmingly fat and vanity as a figure completely absorbed in
a mirror.
The central problem in the morality play was the salvation of human beings, represented by an
individual's struggle to avoid sin and damnation and achieve salvation in the otherworld. As in
Everyman (c. 1495), a late-medieval play that is the best known of the morality plays, the subjects
were usually abstract battles between certain vices and specific virtues for the possession of the
human soul, a theme repeated in the Elizabethan age in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

In many ways, the morality play was a dramatized sermon designed to teach a moral lesson.
Marked by high seriousness, it was nevertheless entertaining. Using allegory to represent abstract
qualities allowed the didactic playwrights to draw clear-cut lines of moral force: Satan was always
bad; angels were always good. The allegories were clear, direct, and apparent to all who witnessed
the plays.

We do not have much knowledge of the origins of morality plays. Many of them are lost, but some
that remain are occasionally performed: The Pride of Life, the earliest extant morality play; The
Castle of Perseverance; Wisdom; Mankind; and Everyman are the best known. They all enjoyed a
remarkable popularity in the latter part of the medieval period, all the way up to the early

4. Chester Plays

The Chester Plays is a cycle of mystery plays dating back to at least the early part of the 15th
century. They were a cycle of 25 scriptural plays, or mystery plays, performed at the prosperous
city of Chester, in northern England, during the Middle Ages.

The plays are based on biblical texts, from creation to the Last Judgement. They were enacted by
common guildsmen and craftsmen on mounted stages that were moved around the city streets, with
each company or guild performing one play.

Under Queen Elizabeth I the plays were seen as 'Popery' and banned by the English Church.
Despite this, a play cycle was performed in 1568 and the cathedral paid for the stage and beer. They
were performed again, over four days, in 1575. This resulted in the mayor, when he retired from his
office, being taken to the Star Chamber in London to answer allegations against him, but with the
support of the council (or assembly), he was freed.

Revival in the 20th and 21st century

The plays were revived in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain, and are presented in the city of
Chester, England, every five years. The 2008 run of plays officially began on 28 June, and run
nightly until 19 July.

Under the direction of Dr Jeff Dailey, the American Theatre of Actors in New York City performed
the play, "The Coming of Antichrist", in August 2017.
5. Interludes

The Interlude, which grew out of the morality, was intended, as its name implies, to be used more
as a filler than as the main part of an entertainment. At its best, it was short, witty, simple in plot,
suited for the guests at a banquet, or for the relaxation of the audience between the divisions of a
serious play. It was essentially an indoors performance, and generally of an aristocratic nature. At
first, the flavor of the morality clung to it, as is seen by such titles as The Four Elements, or The
World and the Child. In the early part of the sixteenth-century political subjects began to be used,
and public officials were satirized under allegorical names. It will be remembered that this was the
century of Luther and much dissension in the Church, and religion was often criticized under cover
of the interlude.

The best of the interludes, however, were not those used for the purpose of propaganda. As the
species developed, abstract characters gave place to recognizable human beings, didacticism
disappeared, and a spirit of genuine comedy emerged. Life was no longer like morality, a battlefield
between Virtue and Vice, with the betting chances strongly in favor of Vice, but an opportunity for
amusing and diversified experiences. The engaging quality which characterizes Chaucer was little
by little transferred to the stage, partly at least through the interlude.

6. Shakespearean Tragedy

A Shakespearean tragedy is a play penned by Shakespeare himself, or a play written in the style of
Shakespeare by a different author. Shakespearean tragedy has got its own specific features, which
distinguish it from other kinds of tragedies. It must be kept in mind that Shakespeare is mostly
indebted to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy in his works.

“A tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in
itself; in appropriate and pleasurable language; in a dramatic rather than narrative form; with
incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions.”

— Aristotle

The Elements of Shakespearean Tragedy

Tragic Hero. A main character cursed by fate and possessed of a tragic flaw.

An important feature of the tragic hero is that he or she is a towering personality in his/her
state/kingdom/country. This person holds a high position, often one of royalty. Tragic heroes are
kings, princes, or military generals, who are very important to their subjects. Take Hamlet, Prince
of Denmark; he is intellectual, highly educated, sociable, charming, and of a philosophic bent. The
hero is such an important person that his/her death gives rise to full-scale turmoil, disturbance, and
chaos throughout the land.

A tragic hero is one of the most significant elements of a Shakespearean tragedy. This type of
tragedy is essentially a one-man show. The hero may be either male or female and he or she must
suffer because of some flaw of character.

A Struggle Between Good and Evil. This struggle can take place as part of the plot or exist within
the main character.

Shakespearean tragedies play out the struggle between good and evil. Most of them deal with the
supremacy of evil and suppression of good.

Hamartia. The fatal character flaw of the tragic hero.

Internal Struggle. The struggle the hero engages in with his/her fatal flaw.

Catharsis. The release of the audience's emotions through empathy with the characters.

Supernatural Elements. Magic, witchcraft, ghosts, etc.

Comic Relief. One or more humorous characters who participate in scenes intended to lighten the
mood, as well as to provide insights into the plot.

7. Tragic Hero

A tragic hero is a literary character who makes a judgment error that inevitably leads to his/her own

Aristotle once said that "A man doesn't become a hero until he can see the root of his own

An Aristotelian tragic hero generally possesses these five characteristics:

1) Flaw or error of judgment (hamartia).

2) A reversal of fortune brought about because of the hero's error in judgment.
3) The discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about by the hero's own actions.
4) Excessive Pride.
5) The character's fate must be greater than deserved.

Initially, the tragic hero should neither be complete angel nor be evil, in order to allow the audience
to identify with them. This also introduces pity, which is crucial in tragedy, because if the hero was
perfect we would be outraged with their fate or not care especially because of their ideological
superiority. If the hero was imperfect or evil, then the audience would feel that he had gotten what
he deserved. It is important to strike a balance in the hero's character.

Eventually, the Aristotelian tragic hero dies a tragic death, having fallen from great heights and
having made an irreversible mistake. The hero must courageously accept their death with honour.
8. University Wits

The Pre-Shakespearean Drama is mainly the drama written by the university wits. In the second
half of the 16th century, that is, between 1550-1590, a group of English writers who had university
degrees chose to write plays for English theatre. Before the university wits, there existed the
classical drama of Greece and Rome. English drama lacked in fire and passion. The English
drama, which was chiefly morality play, was still struggling to be born as a dramatic art. The
university wits who had academic training, passion and poetry brought a new life into English
drama and paved the way to the emergence and expression of the genius of Shakespeare.

The university wits consists mainly of the dramatists like Robert-Greene, Thomas Lodge, John
Lyly, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nash, George Peele and Thomas Kyd. These dramatists lay a
sure basis for the English theatre and provide a fertile period of English dramatic writing. Peele's
theatrical work, for example, is diverse in character. He attempts a pastoral, a romantic tragedy,
chronicle history etc. Kyd attempts plays on Senecan model and introduces the tragedy of revenge.
Greene contributes much to the development of romantic comedy, and Lyly to the portrayal of
comic characters. But Marlowe's contribution is the most outstanding; of all these university wits
or predecessors of Shakespeare, Marlowe is the most eminent playwright.

Marlowe breaks away slightly from the ancient medieval drama. He substitutes ordinary human
beings for the royal personages. Marlowe's Tamburlaine, for example, is a peasant, the Jew is a
money lender and Dr Faustus is an ordinary German doctor and alchemist. Thus, the medieval
conception of the tragedy is substituted by the Renaissance ideals. They may be ordinary human
beings. But they are ambitious and achieve great heights of earthly power, wealth, knowledge, and
glory. They represent English Renaissance ideals of ambition and individual worth.

It can be said that Marlowe's conception of tragedy is the classical Greek conception modified by
the spirit of the Renaissance.

Again, while the medieval conception of tragedy is distinctly moral, Marlowe's conception of
tragedy is dramatic and realistic. Though death comes to all his tragic heroes, the essence (of his
plays) lies in the struggle of a brave human soul against the forces which prove stronger than it is
at the end.

So, the interest in his plays lies wholly in the presentation of conflict and the personality of the
hero. His hero is like a superman with an unsurpassed will, strength and sense of adventure. He is
a giant figure, the embodiment of consuming passion, coming to ruin, through a struggle between
his conquerable soul and physical limitations. But in the plays of Shakespeare, he is brought down
to the human level.

Other characters in his plays lack in their individuality. They are only puppets moving round the
central characters. So, they are less developed and shadowy. There is also a lack of woman
characters in his plays.

Another contribution of Marlowe to English Drama is the use of blank verse. Before him, there is,
no doubt, blank verse but it is still unformed, artificial and monotonous. It is Marlowe who
breathes spirit of poetry into blank verse.

There are, however, some flaws in his plays. They are not compact and well constructed. Dr
Faustus, for example, is largely a collection of heterogenous scenes loosely linked together.
9. Shakespearean Comedy

The Shakespeare comedy plays have stood the test of time. Today, Shakespeare comedy plays like
The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing continue to enthrall and entertain
audiences worldwide – but these plays are not comedies in the modern sense of the word.
While there is certainly quite a bit of humor to be found in Shakespeare's comedies, "comedy"
generally referred to a light-hearted play with a happy ending, as opposed to his more dramatic
tragedies and history plays.

Common Features of a Shakespeare Comedy

 Love: The theme of love is prevalent in every Shakespeare comedy. Often, we are presented
with sets of lovers who, through the course of the play, overcome the obstacles in their relationship
and unite.

 Complex plots: The plotline of a Shakespeare comedy contains more twists and turns than his
tragedies and histories. The climax of the play always occurs in the third act and the final scene has a
celebratory feel when the lovers finally declare their love for each other.

 Mistaken Identity: Whether it takes the form of mixed-up twins or a clever disguise,
mistaken identity was one of Shakespeare's favorite and most-used plot devices. Gender mix-ups were
also quite popular. Shakespeare quite often had characters masquerading as the opposite sex, leading
to many misunderstandings and comical situations.

 Clever plot twists: Shakespearean comedy always involves multiple plot lines, cleverly
intertwined to keep the audience guessing. These unexpected twists are always straightened out in a
happy ending.

 Use of puns: Shakespeare was a master of wordplay, and his comedies are filled with puns
and witty language games. Sometimes silly, sometimes bawdy, yet always clever, his plays on words
are a distinguishing feature of all his works. One will need to brush up on one's Elizabethan English if
one wants to catch all of his jokes.

 Stock characters: Shakespeare, like many classical writers, relied heavily on stock characters
for his plays. One can notice several that keep appearing in The Bard's work: the young couple, the
fool, the clever servant, the drunk, etc. These stock characters were instantly recognizable stereotypes
to Elizabethan audiences.

 Happy endings: All Shakespearean comedies end happily. Most often, this happy ending
involves marriage or pending marriage. Love always wins out in the end.

 Philosophical aspect: In the best of the mature comedies, there is frequently a philosophical
aspect involving weightier issues and themes: personal identity; the importance of love in human
existence; the power of language to help or hinder communication; the transforming power of poetry
and art; the disjunction between appearance and reality; the power of dreams and illusions.
10. Blank Verse

Blank verse is a type of poetry written in a regular meter that does not contain rhyme. Blank verse is
most commonly found in the form of iambic pentameter. Many famous English writers have used
blank verse in their works, such as William Shakespeare, John Milton, and William Wordsworth.

Difference Between Blank Verse and Free Verse

Though blank verse and free verse sound like similar concepts, there are some notable differences.
The definition of blank verse stipulates that, while there is no rhyme, the meter must be regular.
Free verse, on the other hand, has no rhyme scheme and no pattern of meter. Free verse generally
mimics natural speech, while blank verse still carries a musical quality due to its meter.

Significance of Blank Verse in Literature

There is a strong tradition of using blank verse in English poetry; indeed the majority of English
poetry has been written in blank verse. Blank verse became popular in the 16th century when
Christopher Marlowe and then William Shakespeare began incorporating it into their works. If you
read Shakespeare’s plays carefully, you will soon begin to notice that much of the dialogue is
written in unrhymed iambic pentameter, i.e., in blank verse. The famous work Paradise Lost by
John Milton is also written in blank verse. Blank verse was also popular with Romantic English
poets, as well as some contemporary American poets.

Blank verse allows an author to not be constricted by rhyme, which is limited in English. Yet it still
creates a more poetic sound and sense of pattern due to the regular use of stressed and unstressed
syllables. Meter is generally easier to use in English than rhyme since the majority of words are
short (one or two syllables), unlike in Romance languages (The Romance languages are Spanish,
French, Italian, Romanian etc. They are called "romance languages" because they originate from
a language spoken by Romans.). Thus, it was in favor with English poets for nearly half a
millennium. Free verse has replaced blank verse in popularity in the most recently written poetry,

At times, Shakespeare chose to write lines with eleven syllables, yet the stress is still on the tenth
syllable. This is called using “feminine endings.” For example, in the line, “To BE or NOT to BE—
that IS the QUESTion,” we see five iambs (two beats with the stress on the second beat) concluded
with the feminine unstressed ending. Shakespeare was notably creative with his use of blank verse,
and this format does indeed count as blank verse.
11. Marlowean Hero

Marlow’s view of the tragic hero does not completely conform to the classical view of it. The
classical conception of the tragic finds expression in Chapter 13 of Aristotle’s Poetics. The feelings
of pity and fear, according to Aristotle, are the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. It, therefore,
follows that the change of fortune in tragedy must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man falling
from prosperity to adversity because this kind of thing would merely shock us and would excite
neither pity nor fear. Similarly, a bad man must not be shown in tragedy as passing from adversity
to prosperity because this sort of thing would be absolutely alien to the spirit of tragedy. This sort of
situation satisfies neither the moral sense nor excites pity and fear. Nor, again, should tragedy
exhibit the downfall of the utter villain. Such a situation would certainly satisfy the moral sense, but
it would inspire neither pity nor fear because pity is aroused by the misfortune of a man like us.
There remains then a character between these two extremes. He would be neither villainous nor
exceptionally virtuous. He should be a man of high rank who moves from happiness to misery as a
result of his frailty or error in judgment.

Marlow’s tragic heroes do not abide by all these conditions. They agree partially. For example,
Faustus is of an ordinary German parent who goes to Wittenberg for higher studies mainly
supported by his kinsmen. He is not from a royal or noble parentage. But he is great because of his
scholarship. Like Macbeth, he is an ambitious hero. He denounces God, blasphemes the Trinity and
Christian doctrines and sells his soul to the Devil to gain superhuman power and to live a life of
voluptuousness for twenty-four years. His fate is settled when he signs the contract. He utters such
blasphemous words:

“Had I as many souls as there be stars,

I’d give them all for Mephistophilis

By him I’ll be great emperor for the world”.

Marlow achieves distinction by infusing the Renaissance spirit in his tragic hero. Faustus with his
yearning for knowledge proceeds to study necromancy. He responds to the suggestions of the Evil
Angel to attain the position of a “Lord and Commander of the world”. He tries his best to gain a
deity and commits a sinful act. He sells his soul to acquire the unlimited power to probe the secrets
of the universe.

Like some other great tragic heroes, Faustus also suffer from conflict. Like Hamlet, his conflict is
also inner. Faustus choice of necromancy is made after inner conflict. The appearance of the Good
and Evil Angel side by side are the personifications of his good and evil impulses. His conventional
heart is opposed to his self-damnation but he ignores all the warning and completes the scroll. As
the time rolls on, he becomes more and more disillusioned about the profits he expected from magic
and the growing sense of loss and the wages of damnation begins to sting him like a scorpion:

“When I behold the heaven, then I repent,

And curse thee, wicked Mephistophilis,

Because thou hast deprived me of these joys.”

The basic thing about a tragic hero is his tragic flaw which brings about his doom and disaster. The
tragic flaw in the character of Faustus is the thirst for unlimited power and pleasure. He submits
himself to the appetites of sensuality. As his mounting desires bear him further and further, the
horror of his career grows darker. At last, he comes to the impassable point and meets his doom.

The tragic hero deserves pity and fear. According to the classical view, a tragic hero must arouse
pity and fear in the heart of the audience. In this respect, Dr Faustus does not go an exception.
Faustus has universal appeal for life when he says;
“My God, my God, look not so fierce on me!

Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!

Ugly hall gape not! Come not Lucifer!

I’ll burn my book! Ah, Mephistophilis.”

It touches the heart of the audience. Pity and sympathy for the Faustus are aroused in this scene.
Thus, Dr Faustus may be regarded as the tragic hero since he conforms to the basic properties of a
tragic hero.
12. Restoration Comedy

The term "Restoration comedy" refers to English comedies written and performed in the
Restoration period from 1660 to 1710. Comedy of manners is sometimes used as a synonym of
Restoration comedy. After public stage performances had been banned for 18 years by the Puritan
regime, the re-opening of the theatres in 1660 signalled a renaissance of English drama. Th sexually
explicit language was encouraged by King Charles II (1660–1685) personally and by the rakish
style of his court. A Historian argues:

The best-known fact about the Restoration drama is that it is immoral. The dramatists did not
criticize the accepted morality about gambling, drink, love, and pleasure generally, or try, like the
dramatists of our own time, to work out their own view of character and conduct. What they did
was, according to their respective inclinations, to mock at all restraints. Some were gross, others
delicately improper. The dramatists did not merely say anything they liked: they also intended to
glorify it and to shock those who did not like it.

The Restoration comedy is called Comedy of Manners as it presented the superficial habits and
manners of only a section of the society – the elegant aristocracy with their vices, intrigues and
outward glamour of polished behaviour.

According to Charles Lamb “Restoration comedies are a world of themselves almost as much as
fairyland.” Dobree argued that the distinguishing characteristics of the Restoration comedy down to
Congreve is that it is concerned with an attempt to rationalise sexual relationship.

In spite of these criticism and condemnations, it has to be admitted that the dramatists of the
Restoration period reflected the manners and modes of the society courageously. And sometimes as
in the case of Sheridan's The School for Scandal, reflected the manners only for the audience of the
age to find themselves ridiculous, to laugh at their manners, to acknowledge the embarrassing and
humiliating consequences of those manners.
13. Comedy of Humours

The comedy of humours is a genre of dramatic comedy that focuses on a character or range of
characters, each of whom exhibits two or more overriding traits or 'humours' that dominates their
personality, desires and conduct. This comic technique may be found in Aristophanes, but the
English playwrights Ben Jonson and George Chapman popularized the genre in the closing years of
the sixteenth-century.

The term ‘humour’ as used by Ben Jonson is based on an ancient physiological theory of four fluids
found in the human body. According to this theory, there are four fluids in the human body which
determine a man’s temperament and mental state. These four fluids are –

• Blood - The blood was believed to be produced exclusively by the liver.

• Phlegm - Phlegm was thought to be associated with apathetic behavior.

• Choler (Yellow Bile) - Excess of yellow bile was thought to produce aggression, and excess
anger reciprocally gave rise to liver derangement and imbalances in the humors.

• Melancholy (Black Bile) - The excess of black bile was thought to cause depression.

A normal man has these four fluids in a balanced proportion. But this excess of any one of these
fluids makes him abnormal and develops some kind of oddity in the temperament and behaviour
and hence such a person becomes an object of fun and ridicule.

The satiric purpose of the comedy of humours and its realistic method lead to more serious
character studies with Jonson’s The Alchemist. The humours had been associated with physical and
mental characteristics; the result was a system that was quite subtle in its capacity for describing
types of personality.
14. Comedy of Manners

The comedy of manners is a form of comedy that satirizes the manners and affectations of
contemporary society and questions societal standards. A comedy of manners often sacrifices the
plot, which usually centers on some scandal, to witty dialogue and sharp social commentary. Oscar
Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), which satirized the Victorian morality of the
time, is one of the best-known plays of this genre.

Social class stereotypes are often represented through stock characters (stereotypical characters)
such as the miles gloriosus ("boastful soldier") in ancient Greek comedy or the fop (a foolish man
excessively concerned with his appearance and clothes) and rake (a man who is habituated to
immoral conduct, particularly womanising) of English Restoration comedy, which is sometimes
used as a synonym for "comedy of manners".

The comedy of manners has been employed by Roman satirists since as early as the first century
BC. Horace's Satire 1.9 is a prominent example, in which the persona is unable to express his wish
for his companion to leave, but instead subtly implies so through wit.

William Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing might be considered the first comedy of manners
in England, but the genre really flourished during the Restoration period. Restoration comedy,
which was influenced by Ben Jonson's comedy of humours, made fun of affected wit and acquired
follies of the time. The masterpieces of the genre were the plays of William Wycherley (The
Country Wife, 1675) and William Congreve (The Way of the World, 1700). In the late 18th century
Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer, 1773) and Richard Brinsley Sheridan (The Rivals, 1775;
The School for Scandal, 1777) revived the form.

The tradition of elaborate, artificial plotting and epigrammatic dialogues was carried on by the Irish
playwright Oscar Wilde in Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest
(1895). In the 20th century, the comedy of manners reappeared in the plays of the British dramatists
Noël Coward (Hay Fever, 1925) and the novels of P. G. Wodehouse, as well as various British
15. Heroic Tragedy

The age of the Restoration (1660-1700) is primarily known for the comedy of manners. This kind of
comedy – witty, albeit a little licentious here and there – was an authentic reflection of the society of
the age. The so-called heroic tragedy which had a brief run concurrently with the comedy of
manners had also a modicum of popularity but was too stilted and artificial and to some extent,
merely a transplant from the French soil. A heroic tragedy of the Restoration (for example, Dryden's
The Conquest of Granada or Tyrannic Love) is much less representative of the ethos of Restoration
society than a comedy of manners.

A heroic play (and most heroic plays end unhappily, and hence are tragedies), like a heroic poem or
an epic, is generally built around a larger-than-life heroic warrior who is a master both of
swordsmanship and stagy rhetoric. The hero is almost invariably a king, prince, or an army general.
The plot of the play involves the fate of an empire. Gallantry, adventure, love and honour are the
usual themes of heroic plays. The principal conflict faced by the hero is between love and honour.
The writers of heroic plays aimed at the effects of intensity and sublimity and were keen to arouse
in the audience admiration rather than the specific tragic emotions of pity and fear. The diction and
verse used by them were in accordance with their aim. They mostly used rhymed pentameter
couplets (heroic couplets) which were quite artificial but could be impressively declamatory.

In fact, Dryden himself derived a series of rules for this type of play. First, the play should be
composed in heroic verse (closed couplets in iambic pentameter). Second, the play must focus on a
subject that pertains to national foundations, mythological events, or important and grand matters.
Third, the hero of the heroic drama must be powerful, decisive, and, like Achilles, dominating even
when wrong.

The Conquest of Granada followed all of these rules. The story was that of the national foundation
of Spain (and King Charles II was known to be fond of Spanish plays), and the hero, Almanzor, was
a man of great martial prowess and temperament.

Dryden's Conquest of Granada is often considered one of the better heroic tragedies, but his highest
achievement is his adaptation (which he called All for Love, 1678) of Shakespeare's Anthony and
Cleopatra to the heroic formula.