A Close Reading Of The Second Shepherds' Play Essay

1037 WordsFeb 25, 20095 Pages
The Second Shepherds’ Play is believed to be one of ‘the most enduring medieval mysteries’ (Gardner, p1) that has continued to shine light upon medieval drama. Religious or moral plays were hosted by various guilds in order to educate the people of the community through the medium of theatrical entertainment. By critically analysing extracts from both the beginning and the end of this play, the relationships between various literary devices and the way they develop can be thoroughly explored. The play begins with a soliloquy; introducing the first shepherd as grumbling and somewhat miserable character, ‘And I am ill happed; /I am nearhand dold, /So long have I napped; /My legs they fold.’ (lines 2-5) Bad weather is often used by authors to signal a disturbance in the plot itself, for example the unnatural storm in Shakespeare’s Macbeth reflects the disturbance caused to society by Macbeth forging a bloody path to the throne. The ‘storms and tempest’ (line 10) could be seen to run parallel with the friction caused by the ‘gentlery-men’ (line 26). The initial setting of the vast moor plagued with storms also emphasises the physical and mental strength of the shepherds; these men slept out in the open, exposed to the elements and other dangers, in order to care for their flock. The discussion of the storms afore commenting upon social oppression creates a familiar beginning to the play, as well as a sense of foreboding. A social message is portrayed through this extract – the idea that the downtrodden peasants are increasingly annoyed by the constant oppression from the wealthy landowners, ‘We are so hammed, / Fortaxed, and rammed.’ (lines 23-24) Much of the first soliloquy focuses upon this concept of oppression, and it seems to develop into a philosophised grumble as similes and such images enlighten this lament. ‘There shall come a swain / As proud as a

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