Beaumont and Fletcher

I've been re-reading - after a gap of nearly 40 years - these contemporaries of Shakespeare, and I recall now why it was hard work the first time round. These two dramatists wrote plenty of plays that were successful in their day, yet have not withstood the tests of time. And I think it is really because of one thing - their concept of the human psyche. They revel in putting before us characters who, for one reason or another, are acting in a way that is contrary to what one might expect. Each one appears before us as a personage who is presently doing exactly the opposite of what is expected. So the valiant soldier refuses to fight; the king behaves unregally, the coward is entirely happy in his humiliation, and so on. This keeps the audience guessing. We never know quite what to expect. yet it is strangely disorienting to watch characters becoming quite unlike themselves so often, as they swing between extremes of behavior. I mention this because it highlights something about Shakespeare: his characters do not oscillate so wildly in their passions. Instead they dig deeper and deeper into who they are, often their own type of confused madness (think of King Lear). They become more of who they are, rather than veering between unexplained extremes. Macbeth doesn't change so much as grow into a shocked, desperate awareness of who he has become. That's very different. When we watch current TV offerings we can see plenty of passion and strange behaviors depicted for our entertainment. But do we ever feel we're being sucked into the same space of their obsessions? Do we ever feel that, yes, under other circumstances that could be me? Which leads us to ask: how much of who were currently are and understand ourselves to be was first articulated by Shakespeare?