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The importance of the subplot as a convention in English Renaissance drama

Steinmetz-Ardaseer, Yvonne (1994)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

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.

Type of Work:M.Phil. thesis.
School/Faculty:Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Arts
Department:Shakespeare Institute
Subjects:PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
PR English literature
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3145
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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