Steinmetz-Ardaseer, Yvonne (1994)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This study aims at exploring the subplot from its origins, its history up to and including its full maturity in the plays of Shakespeare and some of his contemporaries and successors. From episodical incidents it developed into a fully-fledged secondary plot which contributed to the outstanding qualities of many of these plays.
Since the subplot can be traced to the native and the classical drama, it displays traits of both these dramatic traditions. The native inheritance comprises the mystery play, the morality, the interlude and the play-within-the-play. The earliest example dates back to the first half of the fifteenth century. The classical inheritance consists of a direct and an indirect branch.
Whereas in the first occurrences of a subplot it served to alleviate the seriousness of the actions of the main plot, the subplot gradually adopted a variety of other functions. But the mingling of the comic and the serious was not altogether abandoned. The application of a subplot often led to the introduction of a different class of the social hierarchy buttressed by the characteristics relevant to the respective classes. The existence of unifying themes between the main plot and the subplot offers a starting-point in the discussions on the various functions of the subplot. These functions pointing to analogy and/or contrast resulted in a cross-fertilization of the respective levels.
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