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At the Edge of the Modern, or Why is Prospero Shakespeare's Greatest Creation?

Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 259-279, 1998

22 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2009  

William L. Benzon

Independent

Date Written: 1998

Abstract

The plots in three of Shakespeare's plays are launched by the same device: the protagonist mistakenly believes that his beloved has betrayed him. One of these plays is a comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, one a tragedy, Othello, and one a romance, The Winter's Tale. Shakespeare thus considered this one problematic situation, which has to do with a male difficulty in accepting one's beloved as both a sexual and a nurturing person, at three times in his life and produced different kinds of plays. By looking at his career through modern studies of adult development, we can see that the shift from one genre to another follows the reorganization of Shakespeare's psyche. The ultimate fruit of that development is Shakespeare's final play, The Tempest, whose protagonist, Prospero, has managed to integrate those aspects of himself which had been in conflict in earlier plays. If we then place Shakespeare's career in a broader psycho-historical context we can see how he helped make the modern nuclear family psychologically possible.

Keywords: Shakespeare, comedy, tragedy, romance, story grammar, incest

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., At the Edge of the Modern, or Why is Prospero Shakespeare's Greatest Creation? (1998). Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 259-279, 1998. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1507240

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