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Literary Criticism Shakespeare

Dualities in Shakespeare

by (author) Marion Bodwell Smith

University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Initial publish date
May 2019
Shakespeare, Humanism, Good & Evil
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    Publish Date
    May 2019
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This is a study of particular aspects of particular works in a particular context. The context, in general terms, is the humanist search for a synthesis or order based on the reconciliation of oppositions, for unity in difference, in spite of growing philosophical disillusionment and social disruption. More and more successfully -- in artistic terms at least -- than his fellow-dramatists. Shakespeare was able to achieve such reconciliations by utilizing opposed forces as the ingredients of both dramatic and poetic tension and by resolving conflicts between them on the basis of inclusion rather than exclusion. For Shakespeare, there is always "a soul of goodness in things evil" and a dram of evil in the best; in all human experience, as in Friar Laurence's flower, "poison hath residence, and medicine power." In exploiting the dramatic possibilities of the essential dualities of human existence, all the aspects of Shakespeare's art become increasingly involved.


The book opens with a discussion of the contemporary climate of opinion in regard to the paradoxes of the human condition and the development of Shakespeare's attitudes towards them as demonstrated in his plays. Here, the emphasis is on dualities as thematic material. Subsequent chapters discuss the ways in which concepts of duality operate in paticular works, focussing, in each instance, on a particular aspect of Shakespeare's art -- the treatment of love in the Sonnets, the imagery of Romeo and Juliet, the inversions of Twelfth Night and Macbeth, the levels of order and justice in Measure for Measure, the structure of Antony and Cleopatra, and duality of intention in The Tempest.


Well written, sensitive, and lively, this work will appeal to "the great variety of Readers" who joyfully accept the invitation of Shakespeare's first editors to "Reade him ... againe, and againe."

About the author

MARION B. SMITH is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania. She has lectured on English literature at the Universities of Toronto, British Columbia and Manitoba; at the latter she is now a Professor. In addition to articles in scholarly periodicals Professor Smith has adapted for radio a play by Pirandello and taken part in a variety of CBC broadcasts.

Marion Bodwell Smith's profile page