lunes, 22 de mayo de 2017


In surveying the earlier plots we ended by looking briefly at the 'dark' versions of each type of story: examples where the underlying patterns fails to work out to its proper, happy conclusion. In the case of Comedy it might seem a contradiction in terms that there could be a 'dark' version, in that if 'recognition' and a change of heart fail to take place as the precondition of a happy ending, the story can scarcely be regarded as a Comedy. How then would we describe such a tale?
Let us consider a familiar example. We see a hero who falls in love with a beautiful heroine. She loves him and, despite strong initial opposition, they get married. But the hero unwittingly giyes offence to a jealous, embittered third party, who becomes the chief dark figure of the story. The dark figure determines to get his revenge, and begins to drop hints to the hero that his young wife is being unfaithful to him. The villain hatches a dark plot, involving a lost handkerchief, supposedly given by the heroine to her lover. The hero is taken in and becomes deranged with rage. If this were a Comedy, when confusion and misunderstanding have reached their height, this is where the process of 'recognition' would begin to clear things up. The true explanation of the lost handkerchief would come to light. The dark figure would be exposed for the villain he is. The hero would recognise he had dreadfully wronged his wife, and would be filled with contrition. Finally hero and heroine would be reconciled, and all would end happily. As we all know, however, the story does not end like that, precisely because there is no 'recognition'. Othello is not a comedy, and it leads us on to the next plot.


Sooner or later, in any attempt to explore the deeper patterns which shape storytelling, we are brought up against one central, overwhelming fact. This is the way in which, through all the millions of stories thrown up by the human imagination, just two endings have far outweighed all others. In fact we might almost say that, for a story to resolve in a way which really seems final and complete, it can only do so in one of two ways. Either it ends with two lovers united in love. Or it ends in a death. 
On the face of it, this might not seem particularly odd. Nothing in human life, after all, might be considered more final than death, What could be more natural than that our imaginations should conjure up stories which conclude with their hero/ine reaching old age and a natural death? 
But the point is that the number of stories which end like this, with their hero/ine passing peacefully away in the fullness of years, is not very great. When we talk of a story ending in a death we do not usually mean a natural death at all. We mean a death that is violent, premature, a death that is 'unnatural' (Sw. ond brâd död). In other words, we mean a death which shows that something has gone hideously or, as we say, tragically wrong. 
Of course the huge mass of stories which end in violent death do not by any means all have the same underlying shape. It is possible to arrive at such an ending by any of a number of routes. For a start, as we have seen from our glimpses of the 'dark' versions of other plots - the dark Rags to Riches story, the dark Quest and so on - it is possible for other basic types of story to lead up to such a conclusion, when we might talk of them having a 'tragic ending'. And even when we turn to that great family of stories which have for thousands of years been more specifically described as 'tragedies', we find considerable variety in their underlying shape and moral emphasis. Even more than with Comedy, we are venturing here into an area of storytelling which cannot be delineated in just one simple formula. 
Nevertheless, all through the history of storytelling, we find one particular type of story which is shaped by a pattern so persistent and so distinctive as to make it unmistakable. This can be illustrated by as well-known examples, composed in a wide variety of cultural circumstances and for greatly differing purposes, as: the Greek myth of Icarus; the German legend of Faust; Shakespeare's Macbeth... 

Each of these stories shows a hero/ine being tempted or impelled into a course of action which is in some way dark or forbidden. For a time, as the hero/ine embarks on a course, s/he enjoys almost unbelievable, dreamlike success. But somehow it is in the nature of the course s/he is pursuing that s/he cannot achieve satisfaction. Their mood is increasingly chequered by a sense of frustration. As s/he still pursues the dream, vainly trying to make his position secure, he begins to feel more and more threatened - things have got out of control. The original dream has soured into a nightmare where everything is going more and more wrong. This eventually culminates in the hero/ine's violent destruction. 
In fact we can set out the general stages through which the pattern unfolds like this: 
1. Anticipation Stage: the hero/ine is in some way incomplete or unfulfilled and their thoughts are turned towards the future in hope of some unusual gratification. Some object of desire or course of action presents itself, and his energies have found a focus. 
2. Dream Stage: he becomes in some way committed to his course of action (e.g., Faust signing his pact with the devil Mephisto, King Lear banishing his youngest daughter, Cleopatra keeping Mark Antony away from Rome) and for a while things go almost improbably well for the hero/ine. S/He is winning the gratification s/he had dreamed of, and seems to be 'getting away with it'. 
3. Frustration Stage: almost imperceptibly things begin to go wrong. The hero/ine cannot find a point of rest. S/He begins to experience a sense of frustration, and in order to secure their position may feel compelled to further 'dark acts' which lock them into the same course of action even more irrevocably. A 'shadow figure' may appear at this point, seeming in some obscure way to threaten them.
4. Nightmare Stage: things are now slipping seriously out of the hero's control. S/He has a mounting sense of threat and despair. Forces of opposition and fate are closing in on them. 
5. Destruction or Death Wish Stage: either by the forces s/he has aroused against their own self, or by some final act of violence which precipitates their own death (e.g., murder and/or suicide), the hero/ine is destroyed. 
If we look again at the familiar example of Macbeth, we can see how these five stages correspond exactly to the five acts into which Shakespeare divides the drama: 
1. Act One (Anticipation Stage) shows the triumphant generals Macbeth and Banquo returning from winning a great victory. They meet the three 'dark sisters', who prophesy to Macbeth that he will hold three great titles, Glamis, Cawdor and King. This fires his ambition and when he hears that a grateful King Duncan has already rewarded him with the first two titles, he writes to his lady wife to tell her about the witches' prediction that he would one day hold the third as well. She eggs him on to make the prediction complete, and they find their 'focus' in the conspiracy to murder Duncan. 
2. Act Two (Dream Stage) shows Macbeth comitting the 'dark deed' and subsequently killing the two drunken grooms (rather brief comic relief) to cover up his crime. Initially things could not go better for the hero. Duncan's two sons flee to England, arousing suspicion that they had somehow been implicated in the crime, and Macbeth is chosen to be king. 
3. Act Three (Frustration Stage) opens with Banquo soliloquising 'Thou hast it all now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all, as the weird women promis'd; and, I fear, thou play'dst most foully for it'. The first inklings of suspicion are arising. Macbeth in turn is distrustful of Banquo because of the witches' prediction that it would be his descendants, not Macbeth's, who would sit on the throne of Scotland. He arranges for Banquo's murder. Macbeth expresses his growing frustration in such phrases as 'we have scotch'd the snake, not killed it', and this is heightened when the murderers report that they have killed Banquo, but that his son Fleance escaped. At dinner that night Macbeth is confronted with Banquo's accusing ghost, and the act ends with the news that Macbeth's last supporter among the great Scottish lords, Macduff, has fled to England to join Duncan's sons. 
4. Act Four (Nightmare Stage) opens with Macbeth's second, much more fearful visit to the witches, who give him three increasingly enigmatic warnings: that he should 'beware Macduff; that he will only be overthrown by 'man not of woman born'; and that this can only happen when 'Birnam wood has come to Dunsinane'. Now in a state of mounting terror, Macbeth lashes out at the man who seems most to threaten him, the fled Lord Macduff (exiled to England to join the rightful heir), by arranging for the Macduff wife and children to be brutally murdered. The second part of the act shows the horror with which this news is greeted by the exiles in England, and the coming together of an army to invade Scotland and overthrow the tyrant whose villainy is now clear for all to see. 
5. Act Five (Destruction Stage) shows the nightmare closing in around Macbeth and deepening to its climax: with Lady Macbeth's guilty sleepwalking scene ('unnatural deeds do bring unnatural troubles'); the approach of the avenging army to Macbeth's lair at Dunsinane; Lady Macbeth's death; and finally the battle, when Lord Macbeth learns that Macduff was 'not of woman born' (ie through c-section) just before Macduff slays him. 
The pattern is complete. The pattern we have been looking at here is in fact so fundamental to the understanding of stories that its implications will be with us for the rest of this book. It is not just the starting point for exploring all that complex family of stories which we think of under the general heading of Tragedy, because it presents the tragic theme in its blackest and most basic form. It also, as we shall eventually see, provides one of the best starting points for exploring the profound link between the patterns which shape stories and those which shape events in what we call 'real life'. Indeed, so important is it that we should become completely familiar with the workings of this tragic cycle that we shall shortly look in rather more detail at a further half-dozen examples; and these have been chosen, in addition to those already touched on, to build up a fuller picture of the range of basic situations from which a Tragedy can unfold. 
We shall then, at the end of this chapter, take a look at the most obvious way in which storytellers may sometimes vary the emphasis of their presentation of the basic tragic theme: by concentrating only on the closing stages and beginning at the point, halfway through the complete cycle, where the mood of frustration is coming to be uppermost. 
Finally we shall be in a position to draw on all these and other examples to look at the essence of Tragedy in a deeper and more general way. What is really happening to the hero or heroine of a tragedy as they get drawn into their fatal course of action? Why does it seem to lead so inexorably to disaster? And what is it which distinguishes this type of story from all the others we have looked at, where the fundamental impulse is to lead the hero/ine to a happy ending? 

Faust: The weak man unmanned 
The story of Faust is that of the most brilliant man of his age who gained a great reputation for learning until the moment when: 
'swol'n with cunning, of a self conceit, 
his waxen wings did mount above his reach, 
and melting, heaven conspir'd his overthrow.' 
The super-intellectual Faust is not physically powerful or a leader, like Macbeth or Othello. In manly terms he is essentially weak. Such strength as he has is all in the intellect/reason. But, cut off from his fellow humans by his life of abstract speculation and disputation, the desire creeps up on Faust for limitless power and knowledge, so that 'all things that move between the quiet poles shall be at my command'. What he dreams of, in compensation for his weakness, are the two aspects of the masculine value, power and knowledge. But he desires them only to gratify his ego and to assert himself against the world. There is no sign in Faustus of the rooting feminine that might connect him with other people or with the reality of the world outside himself. And where the light feminine is lacking, only the vacuum of the dark feminine remains. Through this void the Tempter Mephistopheles enters to offer him the treacherous bargain, a fantasy of omnipotence and omniscience in return for his soul. No sooner has the battle between the 'Good Angel' and the 'Evil Angel' for the hero's soul been lost, than it begins to become clear that the powers Faustus has been given are nothing more than empty illusions, such as being allowed to play silly irreverent tricks on the Pope, who as the 'Holy Father' is symbolically an aspect of the Self. 
Finally Faustus conceives his supreme desire to make love to the most beautiful woman who ever lived, Helen of Troy. She appears and he dreams that she is his immortal 'other half,' his anima - 'Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss'. But when he does kiss her - 'her lips suck forth my soul, see where it flies'. The most famous lines of the play, 'was this the face that launched a thousand ships, and burn't the topless towers of Ilium', have already warned us that Helen is no light figure but the terrible Temptress, luring men on to war and destruction. And no sooner is their brief, empty love-making over (with a 'wise old man' coming on to pronounce Faustus's doom) than the hero is plunged firmly into the Nightmare Stage, when he realises that all is now irretrievably lost. He is about to pay the price of eternal punishment in hell. 

Our next example is the story of Bizet's opera Carmen (1875), closely based on the novel of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. 
When we meet the hero Don Josetxu (or José), a Basque corporal in the army stationed in Seville, he is in love with a shy young girl, his adoptive sister Mikaela, and she with him. All might seem well, but our sense that something is about to disturb their happiness is aroused by the entry of the beautiful and imposing Carmen, a classic Temptress (Andalusian/Romany, dark of features, and dressed in red; to contrast with innocent blonde Basque girl in blue Mikaela). She tries to flirt with Jose, at first in vain. She stalks off, but not before she has thrown down a blood-red flower at his feet. Wavering for a moment, he picks it up and places it next to his heart. Micaela returns, and José seems freed from Carmen's spell. A short time later, however, he is sent to restore order after a fight. Carmen has been involved and he has to arrest her. Once again she directs all her seductive charm at him, and this time he falls completely ('Carmen you have bewitched me'). Temptation has won. The Focus has been found. 
Plunging recklessly into the Dream Stage, Josetxu allows Carmen to escape and tollows her to a tavern, where they ecstatically declare their love for one another. José gets involved in a fight over Carmen with one of his officers, Lieutenant Zúñiga, whom he injures in the ensuing swordfight; and to avoid punishment for insubordination he deserts the army and flees to join Carmen and her gang of bandits in the mountains. No sooner has this dark act committed Jose irrevocably to his course than frustration sets in. The fickle Carmen begins to lose interest in José and transfers her admiration to the handsome bullfighter Escamillo. The unhappy Josetxu feels increasingly trapped. He cannot now return to his former life, despite a pitiful attempt by young Mikaela to win him back. He is still infatuated with Carmen, although it is becoming obvious to everyone except himself that he has lost her. 
The nightmarish nature of his plight is now brought home to him when José meets Escamillo coming up the mountainside. Not recognising him, the matador recounts how Carmen used to love a soldier but that it is all over. Josetxu lashes out at his rival and the two have to be pulled apart by the bandits. The triumphant Escamillo invites them all to a bullfight, in which he will be the hero of the hour. 
All that is left to unfold is the final stage. The 'pale and haggard' José, his eyes 'hollow' and 'glowing with a dangerous light', arrives at the bullfighting arena to confront Carmen, who scornfully rejects him and tells him she now loves Escamillo. In the last paroxysm of desperation, Josetxu stabs her to death - thus ensuring his own immediate arrest and, presumably, execution. 

Jules et Jim
 Yet another example is that well-known film of the 1960's, Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim (1962). 
1. Anticipation Stage: Jules and Jim, two high-spirited young men in pre-First World War Paris, are full of nervous energy but lack direction, until a friend of theirs, Albert, shows them some lantern slides, including one of a female statue recently dug up on the Adriatic. A silent film-type caption tells us that they had never seen such 'a calm, tranquil smile' as that which appears on the statue, but that if they saw it again 'they would follow it'. It is the beginning of a Focus for their fantasy state, and when three strange girls shortly afterwards turn up for dinner they see that the third, Catherine, has exactly the smile of the statue. She is a bewitching madcap, given to impulsive pranks, and the two heroes are captivated. The Focus is complete. 
2. Dream Stage: Catherine moves in to live with Jules, but the three become otherwise inseparable, enjoying a mad time all over Bohemian Paris. The sense of being drawn into a reckless, exhilarating dream is heightened when the three go off to the South of France together for the summer. 'After a long search they found the house of their dreams' says a caption. Here they play childish games together in the sun, Catherine always leading. T think we are lost children' she says, and a caption tells us 'she is an apparition'. They return to Paris, where Jules and Catherine decide to get married. 
3. Frustration Stage: gradually the mood of the story darkens. The Great War approaches and the three are separated because Jules, as an Austrian, has to return with his wife Catherine to the other side of the great European divide created by the war. When hostilities are over, Jim travels to be reunited with his friends, who are living in a lonely châlet in the Alps with their little daughter, and finds all is not well with the marriage. They are all awkward together, talking in platitudes punctuated by silences; Catherine sleeping alone ('we lead a monastic life'); and the mood is darkened still further by the surrounding gloomy forests and mist-shrouded lakes and peaks. Their old friend Albert reappears in rather sinister, enigmatic fashion, living nearby (is he having an affair with Catherine?). The sense that they may all be caught in some impending vortex is conveyed by the introduction of the film's theme song Le Tourbillon, 'The Whirlpool/The Maelström'. Jim finds he is slipping hopelessly into love with Catherine himself. Jules allows him to move into the chalet, though not without a warning: 'watch out'. 
4. Nightmare Stage: as the three of them return to France, the action of the film becomes more and more fragmented, as if they were all sleepwalking through some baffling nightmare, with many premonitory references to death. Catherine, becoming ever more withdrawn and enigmatic, with manic outbursts of fey gaiety, shuttles between the two men (with Albert making a last ominous, mysterious appearance). Jim makes a last desperate bid to escape from the vortex by returning to his old girl friend Gilberte, telling Catherine that he wants to marry and have children. 
5. Destruction Stage: Catherine, with a strangely purposeful air, summons both Jules and Jim for a drive in the countryside in her little car. They stop at an inn for lunch. She calls Jim to her car, and deliberately drives it over a broken bridge into the river. Both are drowned, leaving a sadly uncomprehending Jules to superintend the burning of their coffins to ashes. 

One of the more illuminating ways to look at the pattern of Tragedy is to contrast it with more positive types of plot. 
In some respects the position of the hero/ine at the beginning of a Tragedy is not dissimilar to that of the hero/ine at the opening of, say, a Quest or a Rags to Riches story. We first meet them in some situation which does not give ease or satisfaction, which cries out for change. Then something happens which points the way forward. They receive some kind of 'Call' which leads them out of their dissatisfying state into the adventure which is going to transform their lives. 
The great difference between Tragedy and other kinds of story begins with the nature of the summons which draws them into that adventure. When the hero/ine of a Monster-Slaying story or a Quest receives the 'Call' - however hazardous the course it opens out to them - we are in no doubt it is right for them to answer it. When the hero/ine of Tragedy reaches the same point, we are uneasy. We are aware that the 'Call' is not of the same nature; which is why it may more aptly be described as the 'Temptation'. 
This is because of the peculiar way in which the summons to action is directed at one particular aspect of the hero/ine's personality. We have already become aware that there is one part of them, one desire, one appetite, which is nagging at them to the point where the urge to gratify it is building up into an overwhelming obsession. This may be an appetite for power, as in the case of Macbeth or Faust, who dream of winning 'power, honour and omnipotence' such as no one has ever enjoyed before. It may be a hunger for sexual excitement or romantic passion, as with those Victorian wives frustrated by their tedious, inadequate husbands: for instance Anna Karenina, Effi Briest, and Emma Bovary. It may be a longing for sensation rather vaguer and harder to define, as in the examples of Dorian Gray or Bonnie and Clyde, committing bank robberies for 'kicks', where elements of sexual desire and the desire for power over others are mixed together. 
But in every instance we are aware that what their obsession is drawing them into is something which violates and defies some prohibition or law or convention or duty or commitment or standard of normality. They are being tempted into stepping outside the bounds which circumscribe them. Icarus wishes to defy the balance of the natural laws which govern his flight. Faust wishes to step outside the bounds of conventional knowledge. Dr Jekyll and Dorian Gray wish to step outside the bounds of morality. Anna Karenina, Effi Briest, and Emma Bovary wish to step outside the bounds of their marriages. In every case, the tragic hero/ine has come to sense the circumstances in which we originally discover them - the Macbeths, Bonnie and Clyde, Don Josetxu and Carmen, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Cleopatra, the list goes on and on - as in some way irksome, restricting, tedious, inadequate. 
And it is this sense of constriction from which the Temptation - whether it originates within themselves or is personified in the figure of a Tempter or Temptress who lures them on - seems to offer the promise of almost unimaginably exhilarating release. 

This leads on to a second difference between the pattern of Tragedy and that of other kinds of story. When the hero/ine of a Quest or an Overcoming the Monster story receives the 'Call', not only are we in no doubt that they should answer it: we know that they will have to commit themselves to their adventure totally, body, heart, and soul; and they usually leave no one else in any doubt as to their intentions. We are given the impression of someone completely and openly dedicated to the course s/he is embarking on. 
When the heroes or heroines of Tragedy are faced with the Temptation it is a different matter. In many instances we see them struggling or wavering before they succumb, a sign that they are initially by no means single-minded about giving way. Faust wrestles with himself before signing his pact with the devil, as he hears the arguments of the 'Evil Angel' urging him on and the 'Good Angel' trying to call him back. Lord Macbeth falters at the sight of the dagger in his hand, until Lady Macbeth as his 'evil angel' pushes him onward. Othello wavers through the course of the stormy, ill-omened night before he is convinced of his wife's alleged betrayal, until the 'evil angel' Iago finally persuades him. In a similar way, Don Josetxu is torn between his 'good angel' Mikaela and his 'evil angel' Carmen. 

In each instance it is as if part of them is reluctant to commit the irrevocable act which another part of them has come to desire: as if, right from the start, the tragic hero/ine is a 'divided self,' one part of their personality striving against another. A second way in which many hero/ines of Tragedy may be seen as 'divided' is in the need to keep their 'dark' impulses and actions hidden from the world behind a 'light' or respectable front. The main reason why Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has become one of the most celebrated stories of the English-speaking world is precisely because it crystallises this familiar motif so vividly, by making the central characteristic of the story the splitting of the hero into two quite distinct personalities, the respectable, law-abiding Dr. Henry Jekyll; and his secret 'shadow-self,' the deformed and totally amoral 'night creature' Mr. Hyde.
In general we may speak of a split between the 'light' and 'dark' sides of all these characters: and it is, of course, their 'dark' side, initially hidden from the world, which is worked up into a state of anticipatory obsession by the Temptation. But sooner or later they succumb. The 'dark' energy finds its Focus. Macbeth screws up his determination to kill Duncan, Don Josetxu succumbs to the charms of Carmen, Anna Karenina succumbs to the charms of Aleksei Vronsky, Faust seals his pact with Mephistopheles: they have passed the point of no return. And the first consequence is a flood of nervous excitement, marking their entry into a new stage. As Dr Jekyll puts it, when he first manages to effect the switch into his Hyde self: 'I was conscious of a heady recklessness, a current of disordered sensual images running like a mill race in my fancy, a solution of the bounds of obligation.'
The bounds have been overstepped. Suddenly all seems possible. We are aware that our hero/ine has left the comparative safety and security of the situation in which they began, like a boat launched out from the shore onto the unknown currents of a fast-flowing river. And to begin with it is fiercely exhilarating to be whirled along in this manner. But where is it going to lead them? 
One of the most significant facts about stories, as we know, is their drive to work towards an ending: an ending which will give us the sense that everything set in train during the story has been resolved. In almost any story we see the hero/ine leaving their initial state for a period of still greater uncertainty, when all seems more than ever unresolved.
The whole point of Tragedy is somehow in the nature of the course the hero/ine has embarked on that they are not going to reach that happy and secure point of rest we usually call 'happy ever after.' They may imagine that, if only they can reach such and such a place, they will be secure. Indeed a large part of their time is often spent striving towards just such a fondly imagined goal. But the trouble is that the ground keeps on giving way under their feet. From the moment they succumb to the Temptation and imagine that they are about to start enjoying their rewards, nothing turns out quite as they expected. Indeed, if we look closely at the unfolding of any of the tragedies we have been considering, we can see how the mood of the central figure is continually swinging between anticipation and frustration throughout the story. Nothing for the hero/ine bent on a tragic course can even quite resolve. And for this there are two, closely related reasons. 
The first is that, when they embark on their course, there is always something which they overlook. It is not for nothing that we apply the word 'reckless' to the mood in which they set out: they have their attention fixed so obsessively on one point, one object of desire, that they do not pay heed to other factors in the overall context in which they are operating which may therefore produce consequences which their restricted vision fails to foresee. When Icarus ascends upwards in his heady flight towards the sun he shuts his mind to the physical laws governing his flight. When Don Josetxu succumbs to his infatuation for Carmen, he has become blinded to the possibility that she may eventually switch her affections to someone else just as casually as she switches them to him. When Macbeth carries out the murder of Duncan his only conscious thought is that he is removing the one obstacle between himself and his heart's desire, the kingship. It does not enter his mind that his crime might one day be found out. 
In fact we see the hero/ines of Tragedy becoming more and more ensnared in their predicament, precisely like the hero of one of those 'Stickfast' or 'Tar Baby' tales in folklore where, with every attempt to get free (like Macbeth murdering the suspicious Banquo) he only gets a little more trapped: except that when Br'er Rabbit gets stuck to the Tar Baby he is falling into a trap laid for him by someone else, whereas the hero/ines of Tragedy are becoming ensnared by some obsessive desire which springs ultimately from themselves. In this respect it is no accident that we so often, in relation to the central figures of Tragedy, see reference to the words 'dream' and 'fantasy'. We naturally use such words to describe the state of mind of someone who has in some way lost touch with the reality of the world around them. And this is precisely what is happening to the hero/ine of a Tragedy. They are being drawn into a kind of fantasy or dream-state, in which their obsession with gratifying one desire or appetite overrules their capacity for wider judgement. Having entered into such a state of illusion, they slide further and further into it. Having made one false move, they are led into another and another in an increasingly desperate bid to shore up or retrieve their position. They are set more and more at odds with the reality of the world around them - until finally it begins to close in on them, demanding a reckoning. 
Nowhere do we see this inexorable process more clearly reflected - and this is the second reason why the course followed by the hero/ine of Tragedy cannot reach a satisfactory resolution - than in the evolving nature of their relations with the other people around them in the story. 

At the beginning of a full five-stage Tragedy, the central figure is always part of a community, a network of relationships, linked to other people by ties of loyalty, friendship, family, and/or marriage. And one of the most important things which happens to such heroes and heroines as they embark on their tragic course is that they begin to break those bonds of loyalty, friendship and love (even if, initially, they may form other alliances). It is the very essence of Tragedy that the hero/ine should become, step by step, separated from other people. Often they separate themselves in the most obvious, violent and final way possible, by causing other people's deaths. And here we must particularly note the kind of people around the hero or heroine who are most likely to die in a Tragedy. In tragedies, we may single out four types of victim who are particularly likely to suffer as a result of the hero/ine's reckless course. One of these is generally male, two female - and we may describe them as:
the Rival or 'Shadow'
the Innocent Young Girl
the Temptress.

The Rival or 'Shadow' 
This is a figure in some way on a level with the hero (e.g., by age, rank, gender or some other similarity) who comes to stand as a kind of 'opposite' and threat to him. An obvious example is Banquo, Macbeth's comrade in arms and fellow general, who is promised that his descendants will succeed where Macbeth fails and who is the first to see through his old friend's crimes. Another instance is Jim Vane, the young brother of the actress Sibyl Vane, who is driven by a pure love for his wronged sister, just as Dorian Gray's love for her is impure. A third is Clare Quilty, the lover (ostensibly a small-town playwright, but actually a pornographer!) who steals Lolita off. He stands as a threatening 'shadow' to the hero in the opposite way, precisely because he is so similar to Humbert, sharing his obsession; which is why Humbert feels eventually driven to murder him. (More examples would be Count Paris, the "another man" who "kisses by the book" whom the Capulets betroth their daughter Juliet to; as well as Lieutenant Cassio, a good friend to Desdemona, yet allegedly her erotic lover, in Othello). Even more significant than the hero's relations with these male figures are those between him and the chief feminine figures in the story: particularly when we bear in mind how important it is to a fully resolved happy ending that the hero should eventually be brought together with a heroine as his 'other half in perfect, loving union. The chief feminine figures in Tragedy also tend to polarise into two distinct types:

The Good Angel (Innocent Young Girl)
On the one hand, most poignant of all the hero's victims because she is so defenceless against his hard-hearted egotism, there is the good angel, an innocent young girl. She stands in relation to the hero as 'good angel', but is inadequate to sway him. Sooner or later the hero brutally rejects her. And there is no moment in Tragedy more pregnant with the horror of what is happening to the hero on his downward path than when the fate of such a girl is decided: as when Sibyl Vane, rejected by Dorian Gray, commits suicide. When (in Carmen), little Mikaela is finally rejected by Don Josetxu and creeps away into the shadows, we know he is doomed. The whole tragedy of Othello is contained precisely in the way that he blindly turns on the 'good angel' of his life, his 'other half' Desdemona, and stabs her to death.

The Temptress 
The other type of heroine in Tragedy is quite different, in that she is herself a 'dark' figure, leading the hero on. Even so, the Temptress almost invariably ends up dying a violent death, usually at much the same time as the hero. Bonnie, having drawn Clyde into his life of violent crime, is shot down with him in the closing moments of the story. Cleopatra, having lured Mark Antony away from his manly 'Roman self' and played a crucial part in dragging him down to military humiliation, commits suicide shortly after he does. The most terrible symptom of the nightmare closing in on Macbeth is the onset of his wife's insanity, leading to her mysterious death shortly before his own. At least these 'dark' heroines remain faithful to the man they have drawn down to destruction. In other versions of the theme the Temptress slips away from the hero in the closing stages, and nothing contributes more to his mounting sense of frustration than the fact that the woman for whom he has staked all proves ultimately elusive. Humbert loses Lolita. Carmen's abandonment of Don Josetxu drives him to final distraction. Catherine, the 'apparition' who bewitches Jules and Jim, ends up by slipping away from one and dragging the other down to his doom. And nowhere is this motif of the 'elusive feminine' presented more subtly than in Faust where, as the last, supreme demonstration of his devil-given powers, the hero is permitted to conjure up the most beautiful woman who has ever lived, Helen of Troy. Faust steps forward to seize and kiss her. She turns out to be just another insubstantial vision, and vanishes. At last he knows all is lost. In every instance the hero finds himself unable to reach the fulfilment he craves, where he can achieve complete and lasting union with his desired 'other half. Either she drags him down to share his destruction, or she skips away from him like a will o' the wisp. The same is true, in reverse, of tragedies centred on a heroine. Both Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary leave the dull, inadequate security of their marriages for men who set them on fire with a fantasy of romantic passion. In each case they cannot reach the new security they dream of, where they can at last achieve the sense of total union with another man. In each case they begin to flounder and struggle: part of them still wishing to push onward, part now longing to get back to the dull security they so recklessly abandoned. In Anna Karenina there is that superb description of the 'divided self' when, at the height of the Frustration Stage, Anna tells her husband: 'there is another in me... I am afraid of her. It was she who fell in love with the other one ... that other is not I.' But it is the dark 'other self which eventually wins, leading Anna to reject Mr. Karenin for the last time and to throw in her lot irrevocably with Vronsky. No sooner has she done so than her lover begins to slip away, a will o' the wisp, leaving her to disintegrate towards that terrible final moment when, all alone, she flings herself beneath the wheels of the advancing train.
In some Tragedies, there may be a male Tempter instead, like Mephisto or Iago. The most extreme form of this outwardly and biologically male character who works through the insinuating manner of the 'dark feminine', trying to get a hold over the usually male hero by pretending to be acting in his interests, represents the ultimate type of dark figure in stories, the Tempter. This figure, who is extremely dangerous because he is so deceptive, is most commonly seen in Tragedy.
An obvious example is Mephistopheles, pretending to offer Faust all sorts of illusory powers and the ability to know and see 'hidden things' (i.e., to see whole), when in fact he is appealing only to the weak, deluded Faustus's ego and seeking to destroy him. Iago is a similarly devilish example, pretending to be serving Othello's best interests, but in fact seeking only to trap and destroy him. Lord Henry Wotton plays the same role in luring Dorian Gray onto his path to self-destruction. The 'dark figure' of Lord Henry Wotton tempts with two thoughts. The second is how wonderful it would be to live a life of total physical self-indulgence, recognising that the most intense spiritual experiences in life come through the senses.
The Tempter is in fact the supreme 'dark opposite' in stories because he stands at the ultimate pole from the state of wholeness. He represents in its most extreme form egotism pretending to be its opposite. As such, if the male hero is weak in judgement and self-control, he can become the most dangerous adversary of all.

The point about the hero/ines of Tragedy is that they end up utterly alone (even if, occasionally, like Bonnie and Clyde, male hero and heroine die together), completely cut off from the rest of society. They have been drawn by some part of themselves into a course of action which is fundamentally selfish, putting some egocentric desire above every other consideration, isolating them both from reality and from other people. Initially, in the Dream Stage, they succeed in imposing their will on the world and the people around them. They have broken the rules and seem to be getting away with it, because they have seized the initiative and because other people are not yet fully aware of what they are up to.
But gradually the truth of what they are doing begins to dawn on others. Those around them begin to constellate in opposition. The hero/ine having first set themselves against others, we now see the rest of society gradually setting itself against them.
Finally, having torn and trampled the network of relationships originally surrounding them into shreds, the hero/ine is left alone. Whereas in other types of story the tendency is for a general gathering together at the end, round the central union of the male hero and the heroine, in Tragedy exactly the reverse happens. The male hero and heroine are divided in every way: split within themselves, split from their 'other self,' split from the rest of society, which has gathered together only to encompass their destruction. Entirely isolated, all that is left is that their life should be violently extinguished.
In this image of an incomplete, egocentric figure who meets a lonely and violent end, we may recognise the essential characteristics of another deeply familiar figure from stories, whom we have already met in quite another context. We begin the next chapter by exploring some of the striking parallels which emerge between the hero/ine of Tragedy and that figure we previously encountered, from a very different standpoint, as the Monster.

But, because we are now seeing this familiar drama through the eyes of its chief dark figure, Tragedy focuses more intimately than the other plots on two things. First it shows us how someone is turned into a dark figure in the first place; and secondly we see just why the dark power eventually leads those who have passed under its spell to destruction. As we saw in Chapter Nine, The Divided Self, the tragic hero/ine possessed by some fantasy of power or passion is trying to achieve something which cannot ultimately resolve into reality. Made heartless and blinded by the force of their egocentric obsession, they become more and more cut off from other people and from the reality of the world around them, until they are so far at odds with the entire context of their existence (including their own deeper selves) that the bubble of make-believe can no longer be sustained. And as we see happening to Othello or Dorian Gray, Stavrogin or Dr Jekyll, Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary, eventually the hero or heroine can tolerate the strain of this irresolution no longer. So disintegrated are they, inwardly and outwardly; so far has their original dream proved an illusion; so far off the rails has their blinkered vision taken them; so horrified has part of them become at what the dark component in their personality has led them to that, in self-disgust, they turn their violence suicidally on themselves. Thus do we see at the heart of Tragedy how the dark power, in rebellion against the whole, in the end works to bring about its own destruction.

The Dark Inversion 
For obvious reasons, Tragedy occupies a unique place among the basic plots, because in a sense it turns the essential pattern of the other main types of story upside down. All these other types of story have their 'dark' versions, which we shall return to. But Tragedy is the only basic plot which is primarily concerned with showing what happens when the hero or heroine cannot muster the positive qualities necessary to wrest the life-giving feminine value from the shadows, but become so identified with the dark power that they cannot escape from it. It thus shows the process of transformation taking place in, as it were, a negative form: the hero/ine(s) are led ever further downwards and into the dark imprisonment, rather than upwards and away from it. And one of the corollaries of this is that we see the landscape familiar from other types of story appearing strangely inverted.
As the light part of the tragic hero/ine falls further and further under the shadow of the darkness which has taken root in them, and they slip into ever greater egocentricity and lack of feeling for others, we see how their judgement, their ability to see the world straight and whole, becomes increasingly clouded. In fact their vision becomes so distorted that they actually come to see everything at the reverse of its true value. The light values increasingly become a threat to them; light characters come to seem only as obstacles to their egocentric desires. As Macbeth's Witches have it, 'fair is foul and foul is fair'; or as the Duke of Albany puts it in King Lear, 'wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile'. And one of the ways in which we see this inversion most strikingly exemplified is in the nature of the figures around the hero/ine whom they are most likely to see as hindrances in their path. In an earlier chapter we saw how there were certain figures who were most likely to become the victims of the tragic hero on his downward course. In fact we can now see how these correspond to the characters who, in other types of story, are most likely to appear as dark figures: except that here, where the hero himself is dark, they appear as light. For instance, the tragic hero may turn on someone who comes to assume particular importance to him as his Rival, like Banquo - the hero's honourable counterpart or light alter ego, who comes to haunt him as a reproach to his crimes. (The same role is fulfilled by Count Paris in R&J and Cassio in Othello).
But it is when we come to the feminine figures whom the tragic hero is most likely to kill or injure that we see the tragic inversion in its most revealing light. Nothing can more tellingly betray the horror of the dark state a tragic hero is getting into than the moment when he kills or rejects the 'Innocent Young Girl', the 'good angel'. When Othello kills Desdemona, when King Lear sends Cordelia into exile, when Don Josetxu turns his back on Mikaela, when Dorian Gray's rejection of Sibyl Vane brings about her suicide, when Stavrogin's violation of little Matryoshka leads to her hanging herself, their ultimate fate is sealed. In violating or rejecting the feminine outside themselves, they have become catastrophically closed off to the feminine value within themselves, that which alone could allow them properly to feel and to see the world whole.

The archetypal family drama 

We also here come to a complication, in that it is perfectly possible for a male character in a story to remain unrealised in a positive sense on both sides of his personality at the same time. He lacks masculinity as well as the inner feminine. Although this makes him outwardly weak, it does not mean that he is not driven by the urge to exert power over others. But because he is unable to show his desire to dominate openly, he resorts to acting in the manner of the 'dark feminine', by guile and treachery. Such a character may pretend to be concerned for the interests of others, like Aladdin's Sorcerer Jafar or those Dark Rival figures, Blifil, the 'goodygoody' and 'sneak' in Tom Jones, Joseph Surface in A School For Scandal, Moliere's Tartuffe; but this is only a hypocritical front for his ruthless self-seeking. In fact the most extreme form of this outwardly and biologically male character who works through the insinuating manner of the 'dark feminine', trying to get a hold over the usually male hero by pretending to be acting in his interests, represents the ultimate type of dark figure in stories, the Tempter. This figure, who is extremely dangerous because he is so deceptive, is most commonly seen in Tragedy.
An obvious example is Mephistopheles, pretending to offer Faust all sorts of illusory powers and the ability to know and see 'hidden things' (i.e., to see whole), when in fact he is appealing only to the weak, deluded Faustus's ego and seeking to destroy him. Iago is a similarly devilish example, pretending to be serving Othello's best interests, but in fact seeking only to trap and destroy him. Lord Henry Wotton plays the same role in luring Dorian Gray onto his path to self-destruction. The 'dark figure' of Lord Henry Wotton tempts with two thoughts. The second is how wonderful it would be to live a life of total physical self-indulgence, recognising that the most intense spiritual experiences in life come through the senses.
The Tempter is in fact the supreme 'dark opposite' in stories because he stands at the ultimate pole from the state of wholeness. He represents in its most extreme form egotism pretending to be its opposite. As such, if the male hero is weak in judgement and self-control, he can become the most dangerous adversary of all.
In those stories where the central figure is a heroine, or rather a shero, the emphasis of the challenges presented by the dark figures is reversed. When a heroine comes up against the 'dark masculine', like Leonore against the Tyrant Pizarro or Portia against Shylock, it is her strength which has to be called primarily into play, her 'masculine' qualities (although coupled with an unshakeable hold on her femininity). When she is up against the 'dark feminine', like Cinderella faced by her wicked stepmother and the ugly stepsisters, or Gerda by the Snow Queen, it is generally her own genuine femininity, her innocence, beauty, and goodness of heart, which is the most obvious measure of her superiority, and it is this which in the end attracts the 'light masculine' figure of the hero to release her (though there are also subversions; see Salgari's Capitan Tempesta for a shero confronting the dark feminine using her 'masculine' qualities!). But the heroine, or rather the shero, may also come up against that most 'inferior' figure of all, a male figure working through his 'dark feminine' wiles, like St John Rivers trying to lure Jane Eyre into a marriage which we know would first imprison and then kill her. St John Rivers is the Tempter as Dark Other Half, like those weak, treacherous false wooers who attempt to seduce several of Jane Austen's heroines, or Anatoly Kuragin, the would-be seducer of Natasha in War and Peace. The Tempter, as the ultimate 'dark opposite' of the state of wholeness, is thus just as much the most dangerous enemy to the heroine as he is to the hero, and like him she needs to summon up all her potential for wholeness to resist him; just as does Jane Eyre does in her final struggle to free herself from succumbing to Rivers.

Comedy: The dark and sentimental versions 
What happens when the ego takes over the archetype of Comedy? A truly dark version of this lightest of plots might seem a contradiction in terms. In fact such stories have played a much more important role in the development of storytelling over the past 200 years than might be supposed. The only reason why this is not generally appreciated is that, when Comedy turns truly dark, we no longer recognise it as Comedy. We saw earlier how Othello is a play which in plot terms shows many of the ingredients of a Comedy; although when there is no 'recognition', and the hero thus ends up smothering his anima and turning his dagger on himself, it becomes arguably the darkest play Shakespeare ever wrote. For similar reasons, we shall not be looking at some of the best-known examples of what happens to Comedy when it turns dark until the next chapter.

The Ego Takes Over: Tragedy
One of the first notable tragic operas to centre on the plight of 'the persecuted maiden' was Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), loosely based on a novel by that leading Romantic novelist Sir Walter Scott (The Bride of Lammermoor). But when we look at its plot we see something very significant has happened. It is not like that of a conventional Tragedy at all. With its stratagems, confusions and misunderstandings, it is much more like the plot of Comedy: but comedy which has gone hideously and tragically wrong.
The heroine's brother Lord Enrico is at once established as the central dark figure. Not only has he wrongfully usurped the estates of the light hero, Edgardo, with whose family his own has a long-standing feud; he is also under suspicion of treason against the king. He conceives as the only hope of reviving his fortunes a scheme to marry his sister Lucia to another powerful lord, Arturo. But Lucia has already established a secret love with Edgardo, with whom she exchanges rings and vows of eternal fidelity. When Edgardo leaves for France, Enrico forges a letter to make her think Edgardo has fallen in love with someone else. Devastated by this, and to save her brother from death for treason, Lucia nobly agrees to marry Arturo. The wedding ceremony takes place. But no sooner has Lucia signed the marriage contract, than Edgardo bursts in to protest, crying for vengeance. In despair at her brother's treachery, Lucia hands back her ring to Edgardo, who flings it down, cursing all her family, and storms out. Not long afterwards, while the wedding celebrations are still continuing, word comes from off-stage that Lucia has lost her reason and killed her husband. She then enters for her famous 'mad scene', in which she goes through an imaginary wedding ceremony with Edgardo. Unaware of this, Edgardo goes to the tombs of his ancestors, wishing he could join them because he has nothing left to live for. He then learns that Lucia has lost her wits and is dying. A bell tolls for her death and, promising her spirit that nothing can part them, he stabs himself.
As in Othello or Romeo and Juliet, The Bride/Lucia of Lammermoor is 'a Comedy without the saving grace of recognition'. Trapped by wicked deceit into their fatal misunderstandings, the innocent lovers are torn apart and die despairing lonely deaths without ever knowing the truth. But, unlike in the Shakespearian versions, there is no redeeming note at the end; whereby we might at least see the dark author of their misfortunes, like Iago, being taken off for punishment; or, as by the death of Romeo and Juliet, the feuding families being reconciled and harmonious order restored. Out of this black ending there is no victory for light. Only the dark inversion has triumphed. And thus, in a fundamental sense, the story remains unresolved.
 It was perhaps not surprising that Verdi should eventually have been drawn to produce his own version of that original dark comedy-turned-tragedy, Otello (1887), where the hero suffocates the heroine before plunging a dagger into his own heart.
What must strike us about these stories is what concoctions of artifice they are; how unrelated to any genuine outward or inward reality; how wilfully their familiar archetypal imagery is manipulated to play on the emotions of their audience, with its effect reinforced at every point by music of memorably emotive power. They provide a perfect definition of what is meant by sentimentality in its most sensational guise: using an outward show of much of the most basic symbolism programmed into the human imagination to trigger off the desired emotional response. Yet most revealing of all is how nothing more effectively achieves such a response than the spectacle of a beautiful, virtuous heroine, the embodiment of the feminine value, the anima and soul of mankind, being oppressed, imprisoned, degraded and finally put violently to death.

The Trickster 
A last archetypal figure must be added to complete the list. In some ways, as we saw, the darkest figure of all in stories is the Tempter - Mephistopheles or Iago - who appears as a personification of the hero/ine's dark ego-self or fantasy-self in its most 'inferior' form of all. The Tempter is 'inferior' in every respect, ruthlessly using his power in the treacherous manner of the 'dark feminine' by pretending to act in the hero/ine's highest interests while in fact seeking to destroy them. The real purpose of the Tempter is always to blind the hero/ine, to restrict their consciousness without them being aware of it. 
However, we also occasionally see a light version of this figure, the Trickster, who is an aspect of the Self. Like the Tempter, his aim is to trick people into a different state of consciousness: but this time the other way round, to broaden and heighten their vision, to bring them into contact with the Self. 

The Fatal Flaw 

The essence of the tragic hero/ine, in short, is that they are held back by some fatal flaw or weakness from reaching that state of perfect balance which is presented by stories as the supreme goal of human existence. They are doomed to fall short of the goal because in some way they are stuck in a state of incompleteness or immaturity. 
To understand the essence of what is happening in Tragedy we must recall the two great principles of the Self which guide a light hero/ine to the ultimate goal. S/He must show themself as perfectly balanced. Firstly he must be strong, in the positive sense which gives sovereignty over the self and proper authority over others. It is this which enables them at last to succeed to the 'kingdom'. Secondly s/he must be open to that which connects them with the world outside and with feeling for others. It is this which enables them at last to be fully united with the anima/animus. It is the balance between these things which allows them ultimately to reach the goal. 
But what happens if a hero/ine remains centred not in the Self but on the ego? Firstly, strength, instead of being turned inward to give control over the self and its appetites, is turned outward. It becomes merely an egocentric desire to win power, to assert oneself over others. Secondly, that which connects them to others, instead of expressing itself in selfless, unbounded love, turns into the selfish, exclusive love of passion or erotic desire. The egocentric hero/ine is still driven by the urge to reach a goal: indeed this is the very definition of the tragic hero/ine, as they find the Focus for those dark desires. And when we look at the nature of the tragic goal we see how it invariably corresponds in an outward way to that of the hero/ine who is centred in the Self. S/He may wish to win power, to rule over a 'kingdom', like the Macbeths or Richard III. S/He may feel the overwhelming urge to be united with an obsessively desired 'other half,' like Juliet or Don Juan Tenorio. But because s/he wants to achieve the goal for egocentric reasons, the puzzle no longer fits together. 
 This is what Tragedy is really about. It shows us the hero/ine trying to achieve the goal but in the wrong way. Because of that 'fatal flaw' they are unable to succeed. In fact Tragedy shows us everything we have become familiar with in the type of story which comes to a happy ending, but in an inverted form. The light hero/ine is drawn up to the ultimate goal and finally liberated, by a balance between light masculine and light feminine. The dark, or tragic, hero/ine is possessed and drawn downwards by the dark masculine and/or the dark feminine. Instead of seeing the world whole, the right way up, s/he is drawn into seeing it upside down, by that dark inversion which turns light into dark and dark into light: so that the people s/he is most obviously turned against are the very people who represent those values of the Self which s/he should be realising in themself. What we see in Tragedy, in short, is an exact reversal of the pattern which leads to wholeness. And if we recall the essential moves the light hero/ine has to make to bring themselves to the Self, we can see how the plot of Tragedy shows each of them in a negative form. 
The light hero/ine is confronted by one or more of a series of dark figures, the 'dark family', whom s/he must resist or overcome in order to emerge fully and wholly into the light. S/He must escape the clutches of the Dark Mother, representing the 'dark feminine'; s/he must overcome the Dark Father, representing the 'dark masculine'. S/He may then have to overcome each of these challenges again, in the shape of the Dark Rival and the Dark Other Half - until finally, having confronted each test in the right way, s/he can reach the supreme goal. S/He can be fully united with their 'light other half,' the anima/animus, and succeed to the kingdom. 
In Tragedy we see a complete inversion of this scenario. When the tragic hero/ine is confronted by the 'dark feminine' (or by the Tempter, who represents the 'dark feminine' in biologically masculine guise), s/he does not resist: s/he succumbs, and falls fatally under its emasculating spell. If a male hero's masculine strength does emerge, it can only be in the inferior form of the 'dark masculine', compelling him to the loveless pursuit of power and domination over others. And as we saw earlier, there is then a familiar set of light figures who are most likely to be the tragic hero's chief victims on his downward course:

  • then there is the 'light Rival' or 'light Alter-Ego', who corresponds to the hero in some way, as in terms of age, status, and/or situation, but who is positive where the hero is negative, and thus his 'light Opposite';
  • above all there is the Innocent Young Girl, the 'Good Angel' or 'light Other Half', representing the supreme value of the 'light feminine': except that in Tragedy she is not sufficiently powerful or well-developed to sway the male hero and turn him back towards the light. She is the figure whom we shall see, where the hero himself is not fully developed, as the 'inadequate' or 'infantile' anima. 

Nothing more tellingly reflects the course of the male tragic hero's inward spiritual disintegration than the way, when he is confronted by any of these light figures, or each of them in turn, he either kills or brutally rejects them. Each time he does so, he is in effect killing or rejecting that aspect of himself. Thus does he remain locked into the basic situation of the weak, immature hero, bewitched by the dark feminine, who cannot grow up. He turns on one component of his psychic kingdom after another, extinguishing the light, until the darkness finally kills his soul and he plunges to destruction. 

The cue for the weak, vain young hero Dorian to succumb to his fantasy is provided by the Tempter Lord Henry and, like his shadowy Mephistopheles, the hero thus becomes an amalgam of dark feminine and dark masculine, the complete opposite of a light, whole man. 
Hannibal Lecter turns out to be a masterful, outwardly courteous, devilishly ingenious representative of the 'dark masculine' possessed by the 'dark feminine'. He has the heartless, intuitive subtlety of a 'Tempter' figure, as he tries to lure the heroine under his spell. In this sense the gender wires begin to get crossed because, although Clarice is meant to represent tough modern womanhood, she finds herself getting drawn by his penetrating intelligence into the more familiar archetypal role of a young woman falling into the power of a male monster.

There is scarcely any play of Shakespeare's in which someone does not in some way attempt to trick or deceive someone else, whether it be Iago tricking Othello with the handkerchief or all those heroines in the comedies who appear in male disguise. But no play contains anything like so many plots and stratagems as Hamlet: at least nine in all. Scarcely has Polonius seen off Laertes to Paris than he is sending Reynaldo after him to spy on his moral conduct.

If we look at the rise and fall of Nazi Germany as an archetypal story, then the role of Hitler is that of a Tempter. The blow the German people had suffered to their collective national ego through their humiliating defeat in the First World War, followed by years of weak, unmasculine government under the Weimar Republic, led them to see their once proud, militaristic nation as having been reduced to a state of impotence and economic depression. Hitler emerged as the visionary and orator who could awaken Germany's dark, resentful nationalist energies. With his election as leader of the nation in 1933, the Anticipation Stage found its Focus. This launched the Dream Stage of Nazi rule which was to develop through the rest of the 1930s. Inspired by its 'dream leader', the fantasy grew in confidence round projections of the masculine values of power and order, constantly extending its appetites as it began to take over one neighbouring country after another.

2. The temptations: ego versus Self 
The hero Jesus grows up to manhood in normal fashion, marked out only by the episode when, in his early teens, he astonishes the elders in his local synagogue by the authority with which he expounds the scriptures. But then, when he is finally ready to reveal his message to the world, comes the second 'mythic' passage in the story, the dream-like episode when goes out alone into the wilderness/desert to be put to the test by the devil (Satan). He is offered three temptations: that he should use his divine power to turn stones into bread; that he should throw himself off the temple roof (quite a high tower), so that he can demonstrate his power by being saved by angels; and that, when he is taken up 'into a high place' (presumably a peak or mesa) to be shown 'all the kingdoms of the world', he can be given the power to rule over them.
This is a significant moment in the history of the human imagination. The figure of 'Satan', as (the LORD's) 'opposite', has appeared before in Jewish legend, most notably in the Book of Job. But never before has this Tempter-figure emerged so openly and in such uncompromisingly personal guise. He is a complete personification of all the treacherous, self-deceiving, self-destructive power of the human ego. And the reason he can be now be portrayed in such an extreme way, as a 'dark opposite' to the hero, is that in no story before has the hero ever been portrayed so uncompromisingly as a personification of the Self (perhaps the only exception is the Indian legend of the Buddha). In rejecting the three temptations out of hand, Jesus shows he is so completely identified with the Self that he has no ego to be tempted. Of course he will not turn stones into bread, because what he stands for has nothing to do with gaining advantage in the outward, material world. He is concerned solely with the internal realm of the human spirit. Equally he will not be party to a spectacular demonstration of his power simply in the name of saving himself. Again he has no interest in exercising power over the 'kingdoms of the world' because his message is concerned with a wholly different 'kingdom': that spiritual domain within each human individual which has nothing to do with the exercise of power over other people. 

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