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Shakespeare lived in the Age of Humanism and shared its basic optimism and good will toward human nature. Here we note that the evil that takes place in Shakespeare's plays is usually the result of villains described as unnatural and who frequently acknowledge having an unnatural bent. There are, to be sure, "honorable" men like Brutus in Julius Caesar who go astray, but for the most part, the bad characters are portrayed as abnormally perverse. Outside of the tragedies, Shakespeare plainly takes humorous shots at misanthropic characters like Jaques in As You Like It and Malvolio in Twelfth Night. But of greatest importance, the tragedies aside, human nature in Shakespeare's plays is subject to reformation. Sometimes, as in the conversion of Oliver in As You Like It, the transformation is miraculous, in other cases, as in The Tempest, a lesson must first be taught, and, in at least one famous instance, that of the parents in Romeo and Juliet, the lesson comes too late. But the benevolent Shakespeare depicts normal human nature as being inherently good.
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