Shakespeare's Comedies

Shakespeare's Comedies

SHAKESPEARES COMEDIES TRICKS AND TARGETS DEFINITION: REVIEW A play of Shakespeares time was called a comedy if it had a happy ending, and generally that meant a marriage. Shakespearean comedy is not all about laughs, although it can be unbearably funny. It may also involve some very dark or violent storylines. COMMON CHARACTERISTICS

A struggle of young lovers to overcome problems, often the result of the interference of their elders There is some element of separation and reunification Mistaken identities, often involving disguise usually a marker for farce A clever servant (fool) Family conflicts that are usually resolved in the end Complex, interwoven plot-lines CLOWNS AND FOOLS A Shakspearean fool usually is named fool and has the job of providing

witty commentary that brings the powerful down a peg and also gets money out of them. They break boundaries of rank, have complete liberty of speech. Feste in Twelfth Night works for Olivia as a fool, and entertains all with his explanations about why things are really the opposite of what they appear. (3:1) Clowns are everywhere (aint it the truth). Any character can play a clown part if he/she does idiotic things with little to no self-awareness. Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Sir Toby Belch Bottom is a clown in Midsummer Nights Dream FOOLS VS CLOWNS

COMEDY AND ELIZABETHAN SOCIETY Comedy is serious business, and does important work in a culture Laughter is a way of coping with something uncomfortable. People never laugh at anything thats simply nice. Example: adultery is categorically, hysterically funny in Shakespeares timewhy? In a culture where legitimate offspring are essential and control of womens bodies is like a religion, everyones screwing around. Laughter recognizes the difference between what things are, and what they ought

to be; The . . . laughable then is the incongruous, the disconnecting one idea from another, or the jostling of one [contrasting] feeling against another. (William Hazlitt) We laugh at the disconcerting sight of a person losing the elasticity of humanity, becoming a mechanism, a thing, something mechanical encrusted on the the living. (Henri Bergson) Think of Malvolio, who has no relationship to others except through his social ambition. MARRIAGEWHY SUCH A FOCUS? Marriage = a source of intense anxiety and desire; its both comforting and oppressive Characters want marriage, and fear it; they need to find their parents, and to escape from their parents.

The anxieties on which comic laughter plays are social anxieties: the need for money, security and social position, and the fear that the pursuit of such needs is dehumanizing. So the order affirmed in the traditional ending is social marriage, the family, the rule of law Comedy has a built-in contradiction between laughter and the happy ending Laughter = anxious, unsettled, contradictory; Happy ending = nice.. TWELFTH NIGHT: MIRRORS AND SOCIAL

ISOLATION: Many images of solitude: ANOTHER LAYER OF SOCIAL ANXIETY Malvolio in his fantasy world and then in his dark prison Viola describing her sisters unrequited love (II.iv.11015) Each is a mirror image of self: Malvolios only relationship is with his own image, practicing behavior to his shadow, Viola in describing her sisters loneliness is really describing her own. The true self and real relationship to others is lost. Isolation ends for Viola when her twin brother Sebastian appears on stage

with his sister Sebastian speaks Violas name, and the mirror becomes the other; relationships restored. The lovers are freed from the solipsistic world of mirrors. Is there a possible resolution for Malvolio, a way he can be welcomed into the fold? If not, why is he excluded?

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