HARRY POTTER CHARACTERS AS OPERA SINGERS. … [Read more...]

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"THE TRAGIC SIDEKICK: SHAKESPEARE AND THE SUBVERSION OF THE HEROIC IDEAL": This is my senior essay from high school. It was really, really important to me at the time; if you knew me as a college freshman (especially if you're the Old Oligarch), you might recognize some of the arguments, preferences, and catchphrases. It's wild to compare this piece to my Crisis magazine article on Christianity and children's fantasy: The implied worldviews are almost opposite. I think a lot of my fiction (and a … [Read more...]

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MERCUTIO: The characters who most perfectly fits the mold of the complex marginal figure both cynical and in his own way honorable is Mercutio, the sidekick whose role Shakespeare complicates with imagination and a sense of his own tragedy. His puns, his mockery of Romeo's tragic-love mopiness, his hotheadedness, and his verbal ingenuity are all marks of the new archetype that Shakespeare was creating. Previous malcontents could not come within miles of his expressive power, because that would … [Read more...]

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FALSTAFF: Sir John Falstaff's story is also shaped by his role as a sidekick to Prince Hal, and in his case his death is not even a precursor of a larger tragedy but in fact a precursor of Hal's triumph. Falstaff shares many other characteristics with Mercutio--and manages to steal Hal's fire even more often than Mercutio stole Romeo's--but adds to them a greater sense of a life lived for the purpose of living, of the satisfaction of the body serving to satisfy the soul. Shakespeare does not … [Read more...]

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THE FOOL: The Fool in King Lear is not nearly as fully fleshed out as Falstaff or even Mercutio, and in function is much closer to the older form of the malcontent which Shakespeare was using as his base. However, he shares with the two larger characters his ironic sense of a truth which often runs counter to the truth of heroes. In King Lear Shakespeare explores the possibilities of marginal characters, reshaping the malcontent archestpe in several different ways; not just the Fool, but Edmund … [Read more...]

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HAMLET: If in King Lear the tragic sidekick's role is restricted by the larger story, in Hamlet his role expands to become the central story. In creating Hamlet, and shoving him into the role of a revenger, Shakespeare thrusts his new type of marginal character onto the center stage. Hamlet's character is in many ways an extension of Mercutio; he has a similar ironic view of the world, the same sense of being on the margins (he, unlike Shakespeare's other tragic heroes, does not seem to know the … [Read more...]

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END: Hamlet is the culmination of Shakespeare's expansion of the marginal, malcontent-Vice character. By creating the archetype of the tragic sidekick, he was able to show a view of the world which neither a hero nor a more narrowly-conceived malcontent could provide; he could also explore ideas of heroism and tragedy which more stable, hero-centered plays could only suggest. Falstaff and Mercutio introduce ambivalence into plays which, without them, would have dismayingly simple plots; because … [Read more...]

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