A JOURNEY FROM MELODRAMA TO TRAGICOMEDY
THROUGH SOME SHAKESPEARE’S WORKS
©DEV VIRAHSAWMY AND ICJM
‘Romeo and Juliet’, an early play, written towards the turn of the 16th century, is a tragedy of fate, of star-crossed lovers, based on the ancient belief that:
“As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods.
They kill us for their sport.”
The play since its creation has been very popular, not because it is a great tragedy but because of the beauty of its poetry (for parting is such sweet sorrow); because of the blend of humour and seriousness, where the comic and the tragic are back to back; and specially because it is a brilliant tearjerker, a superb melodrama of the ‘kari brile’ type.
The two young lovers are not damned by some tragic flaw but are mere victims of fate.
The tragedies which later followed are marked by a new concept: the tragic flaw – I stumbled when I saw. Mauritians have much to learn from these plays as they will help us to move away from “pa mwa sa, li sa” to “pa li sa, mwa sa.” This is clearly shown in ‘Othello”. At the end of the play, there is a temptation to look for a scapegoat. The protagonist resists that temptation, takes his dagger and plunges it in his heart to kill the beast in him. Hell is not the other people as Sartre would say; hell is in oneself.
‘Hamlet’ is different. In the past, there was a tendency to look for Hamlet’s tragic flaw. Some said it was indecision. There is now a different approach. The play traces the growth of Hamlet until he understands what his real mission is: “There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” He is now a Christlike figure, ready for the great self-sacrifice to purge the world.
It can be said that classical tragedies are ruled by Greek gods and the God of the early books of the Old Testament and not by the God of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love (W. Blake), God of the New Testament. Shakespeare felt that surely for towards the end of his treatre career, he moved to a new type of plays which has the ingredients of a tragic end but which through a benevolent providence ends in reconciliation and reunion and not in separation and death. It’s the triumph of love and forgiveness. ‘The Tempest’ is a good example of the tragicomic mood.
My version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ entitled ‘Ramdeo ek Ziliet’ gives the play a tragicomic twist and the lovers are saved by a Sufi Sheik. In my own way, I try to walk in the steps of the great bard.