Romantic drama: a study of selected plays by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and Byron
This thesis examines five plays of the Romantic poets: Wordsworth's The Borderers, Coleridge's Remorse, Shelley's The Cenci and Prometheus Unbound and Byron's Manfred. It is my contention that the Romantic poets tried to develop a dramatic form in which the emphasis was primarily imaginative and psychological. The plays focus on the development of a central character or characters, and the action of the plays consists in the gradual unfolding of the motives of the complex, often ambiguous protagonists. Because the Romantics saw action as primarily internal or psychic they concentrate on the use of symbolic language to convey character development and theme. The plays of the Romantics cannot be divorced from their historical context. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and Byron all drew upon and developed certain aspects of contemporary drama and theatre, and rejected others. In looking at the theatrical background of the period, and in particular at the influences of melodrama, and of Shakespeare, I attempt to place the works in an historical perspective in the belief that this will make possible a better understanding of the dramatists' intentions and achievements. I show that they paid particular attention to those tendencies in gothic melodrama, and in Shakespeare's characterization and poetic language, which emphasized the complex and emotional nature of personality, and that they used their characters to explore themes central to Romanticism: guilt, remorse, self-consciousness, nature, and the need to find a basis for value and action when external criteria have been found wanting.