Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



A student of literature becomes aware of an organizing design which unites all satiric, tragic, comic and romantic drama into one total picture. These four types of drama with their distinct moods dovetail into a total tale in much the same way that the four seasons create the overall picture of the year's story. The moods of the four seasons of the year show a close correspondence to the major literary moods. An archetypal study of Comedy is especially rewarding because one may identify within the comic structure aspects of the other types of drama. Included in Comedy are the conflict mood of Satire, the death phase of Tragedy, the resurrection and fertility magic of Comedy, as well as an anticipation of the fulfillment of ideals characteristic of Romance. The structure of Comedy makes a nearly completed Life, Death and Resurrection cycle. The repeated use of this cyclic pattern throughout history indicates that man's reflection upon this rebirth pattern is universal. It knows no bounds of geography or time and it suggests a tie of man's spirit to nature and consequently to his God. According to Indian legend the- first play, a Comedy, took place in heaven "when the gods having defeated the demons were enacting their victory. If indeed the first play was enacted in heaven, the second was enacted upon the primitive earth when man acknowledged the powers of the gods upon himself and upon his world. Rood suggests that drama and religion were spontaneously born together: "In some prehistoric dawn, when the world was much younger and man was still very new, a man lifted his spirit to the sky and turned his body toward the sun. In that moment of mystery, drama and worship came into being together. As early man gained in perception he sensed that his gods were regulating the seasons. The god of life produced the season of plenty and the god of death produced the season of dearth.5 He then realized that the gods set the world into a timebound motion which enabled man and nature to periodically revitalize themselves. This happened when the god who embodied the death force drove the god of life into a period of mock death from which he was reborn with new life and vitality. Finally he understood that those godly powers directed an entire cyclic tale of creation, death and recreation. Early man was spiritually tied to nature. Nature provided man with the stage, setting and backdrop for his dramatic ceremonies. Nature also provided man with forces, elements and creatures that would stimulate his intellect so that he might formulate his dramatic characters. It was, however, nature's most amazing phenomenon, her predictable mutability, that interacted most deeply with the spirit of man to prompt the production of his dramatic plots. These dramatic plots have been categorized by anthropologists into three major plot groups and called ritual patterns. Theodore Gaster describes the three patterns as, (1) the expulsion of the Old by the New, (2) the Mock Death, Burial and Resurrection of the Old into a revitalized New and (3) the Conflict between Old and New, the Death of the New, his Resurrection, Sacred Marriage, Sacred Feast and Exodus. According to Gaster these three ritual patterns "played an important role in the religious practices of the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Canaanites and Hittites at least 1,000 years before our earliest extant Greek drama was written.”

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Plays. Selections

South Dakota State University Theses



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University