If the literary green world of ecocriticism needs an update, so too does the idea of Shakespeare’s green world—the idyllic, pastoral, setting of escape and freedom from tyranny, established by literary scholar Northrop Frye in his 1948 essay “The Argument of Comedy” and elaborated on in his 1952 Anatomy of Criticism. Frye’s green world was never fully conceptualized, and some scholars have attempted to update Frye’s green world idea, like Charles R. Forker, whose 1985 essay “The Green Underworld of Early Shakespearean Tragedy” provides a well-needed application of the green world theory to several Shakespearean tragedies. Working directly within the incomplete framework Frye developed, and years before the discipline of ecocriticism would provide him the lens with which to properly critique the violent elements of Shakespeare’s natural world, Forker necessarily fails to capture the full essence of the green world within Shakespeare’s tragedies. However, I believe that in combining Forker’s research with the ideas of Steve Mentz—that in our world of climate change and in the light of humankind's ecological damage, ecological criticism needs to focus on a newer, figuratively darker, colour palette—it is possible to synthesize Frye’s comedic green world with Forker’s tragic, creating a re-shaded, red world lens through which to view Shakespeare’s darkest tragedies, like Macbeth or King Lear. In this reverse green world, the protagonists are subjected to the tyrannies of nature through unnatural weather patterns, barren landscapes, and terrible storms—all of which combine to ultimately destroy the protagonists.
Merkley, Wyatt, "“The Multiplying Villainies of Nature” Northrop Frye’s Green World and The Red World of The Shakespearean Tragedy" (2018). 2018 Undergraduate Awards. 13.