Structure of Shakespearean Tragedy


Exposition:          The exposition describes the mood and conditions existing at the beginning of the play. The time and place will be identified as well as the main characters and their positions, circumstances, and relationships to one another.

Exciting force:      Also sometimes called the complication or initial incident, the exciting force is what “gets things going.” The exciting force thus begins the conflict which will continue in the play.

Rising action:      The series of events which lead up to the climax of the play comprise the rising action. These events provide a progressive intensity of interest for the audience. The rising action will involve more than one act.

Climax:               The climax represents the turning point in the play. From this point on, the Shakespearean hero moves to his inevitable end.

Falling action:    The falling action includes those events occurring from the time of the climax up to the hero’s death.  The episodes will show both advances and declines in the various forces acting upon the hero. Like the rising action, the falling action will involve events in more than one act.

The catastrophe: The catastrophe concerns the necessary consequences of the hero’s previous actions which must be the hero’s death. The catastrophe will characteristically be simple and brief.