From Shakespeare's Pathos by J. F. Pyre. In Shakespeare Studies. Madison: University of Wisconsin.
Shakespeare skillfully associates his pathos with
the leisurely pursuits and the most sensitive opera
tions of the mind: such occupations as reading,
listening to music, meditation, friendly converse;
such intuitive operations as are involved in shy
and random reminiscence, recapitulation, or comparison, or in half-conscious or vaguely relevant
planning, premonition and presentiment.
moods fall in moments of reunion or leave-taking,
of happiness after sorrow or safety after peril, of
momentary release from labor or pain, in the lulls
of grief or conflict, which, in tragedy, are but the
suspensive pause before the blow, a momentary
hush of the unexpended storm "from whose solid
atmosphere, black rain, and fire, and hail, will
burst" in the final cataclysm.
For the accentuation of these moods, Shakespeare frequently employs certain incidental accessories upon which he securely relies for the pathetic
modulation of the scene. One of these accessories,
already hinted at, is music, not extraneous, usually, but motived by the action and an organic
part of it. The boy, Lucius, touches the lute while
Brutus watches in his tent on the eve of Philippi;
Ophelia's mad snatches, Desdemona's "Willow"
song, the music which the Doctor prescribes for
the awakening of Lear, Fidele's dirge in Cymbeline,
and numerous minor instances are to the same
purpose. Flowers, also, are accessories of pathetic
suggestion. Nothing in the mad scenes of Ophelia,
when portrayed on the stage, is more conducive
to tears than her business with the flowers:
Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself
She turns to favour and to prettiness.
Other flower passages in the plays have been frequently commented on, because of their exquisite poetry. Such are Perdita's "I would I had some
flowers o' the spring", etc., and Arviragus's less famous or at least less frequently quoted, but hardly less beautiful
With fairest flowers
Whilst summer lasts and I live here, Fidele,
I'll sweeten thy sad grave. Thou shalt not lack
The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose, nor
The azured harebell, like thy veins, no, nor
The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander,
Out-sweet' ned not thy breath.
How to cite this article:
Pyre, J. F. Shakespeare's Pathos. In Shakespeare Studies. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2011. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/shakespearepathos4.html >.