Shakespeare’s Comedies : Shakespeare’s Comedies Mainly from Wiki About Comedies : About Comedies A struggle of young lovers to overcome difficulty that is often presented by elders
Separation and unification
One or more clever servants
Heightened tensions, often within a family
Multiple, intertwining plots
Frequent use of puns, many of which we do not get. The Comedies : The Comedies The Comedy of Errors
Taming of the Shrew
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Love's Labour's Lost
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Merchant of Venice
Much Ado About Nothing
As You Like It
The Merry Wives of Windsor
All's Well That Ends Well
Measure for Measure
The Winter's Tale
The Tempest Taming of the Shrew : Taming of the Shrew One of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies
Lighthearted and slapstick humor, disguises and deception, and a happy ending.
Darker humor and deeper characterization in his later plays, both comic and tragic.
Focuses on courtship and marriage, but, unlike most comedies, devotes a great deal of attention to married life after the wedding. The other comedies usually conclude with the wedding ceremony itself.
Marriages among upper class were arranged for money, land, or power, not love. There were few ways out of unhappy marriage, so the resolution of marital disputes became an important topic in the literature.
Of particular worry were “shrews”, cantankerous or gossipy wives who resisted the assumed authority of the husband.
Sermons, plays, and pamphlets address the taming of shrews by their husbands by, for example, repeated dunking in a river. Part of this literature took a diplomatic attitude toward women, much was misogynistic.
The Taming of the Shrew manages to lampoon chauvinistic behavior while simultaneously reaffirming its social validity. The play celebrates the quick wit and fiery spirit of its heroine even while reveling in her humiliation. Midsummer’s Night Dream : Midsummer’s Night Dream Written in the mid-1590s
One of his strangest and most delightful creations, marks departure from earlier works and the English Renaissance.
Greek mythology (Theseus, for instance, is loosely based on the Greek hero of the same name, and the play is peppered with references to Greek gods and goddesses)
English country fairy lore (the character of Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, was a popular figure in sixteenth-century stories)
theatrical practices of Shakespeare’s London (the craftsmen’s play refers to and parodies many conventions of English Renaissance theater, such as men playing the roles of women).
Titania comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses
Oberon may have been taken from the medieval romance Huan of Bordeaux
Unlike the plots of many of Shakespeare’s plays, however, the story in A Midsummer Night’s Dream seems not to have been drawn from any particular source but rather to be the original product of the playwright’s imagination. Merchant of Venice : Merchant of Venice Written in either 1596 or 1597
Plot, with the merchant, the poor suitor, the fair lady, and the villainous Jew, is found in a number of contemporary Italian story collections, and Shakespeare borrowed heavily.
Portia, Shakespeare’s first great heroine, and the unforgettable villain Shylock elevate this play to a new level.
Shylock’s cries for a pound of flesh have made him one of literature’s most memorable villains, but many readers and playgoers have found him a compelling and sympathetic figure.
Shakespeare and anti-Semitism: Jews in England were a marginalized group, frequently portrayed as villains and objects of mockery. He exploits Jewish stereotypes for comic effect. But Shylock is more complex than Jews in other plays. Shakespeare makes him more human by showing his hatred is born of the mistreatment he has suffered in a Christian society. The character includes an element of pathos as well as comedy; he elicits pity and compassion, rather than simply scorn and derision. Much Ado About Nothing : Much Ado About Nothing Written in 1598 and 1599
Combines elements of robust hilarity with more serious meditations on honor, shame, and court politics. Though interspersed with darker concerns, a joyful comedy that ends with multiple marriages and no deaths.
One feature of Shakespearean comedy is that no one dies, but death is not absent. Hero’s pretending to die of humiliation makes death more vividly present here than in any of his other comedies. The crisis that lies at the center of Much Ado About Nothing creates a strong sense of anger, betrayal, hatred, grief, and despair among the main characters. Although the crisis ends quickly, Much Ado About Nothing sometimes seems only steps away from becoming a tragedy.
Although the young lovers Hero and Claudio provide the main impetus for the plot, the courtship between the older, wiser lovers Benedick and Beatrice is what makes Much Ado About Nothing so memorable. Benedick and Beatrice argue with delightful wit, and Shakespeare develops their journey from antagonism to sincere love and affection with a rich sense of humor and compassion. Since Beatrice and Benedick have a history behind them that adds weight to their relationship, they are older and more mature than the typical lovers in Shakespeare’s comedies, though their unhealthy competitiveness reveals them to be childish novices when it comes to love. Twelfth Night : Twelfth Night Written in 1601.
About illusion, deception, disguises, madness, and the extraordinary things that love will cause us to do—and to see.
“Twelfth Night” is a reference to Epiphany, or the twelfth night of the Christmas celebration (January 6). This holiday was celebrated as a festival in which everything was turned upside down—much like the upside-down, chaotic world of Illyria in the play.
A transvestite comedy, a category that also includes As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice. These plays feature female protagonists who have to disguise themselves as young men. Remember that all of the parts were played by men, so Viola would actually have been a male pretending to be a female pretending to be a male.
Twelfth Night is derived from other sources: (1) an Italian play from the 1530s entitled Gl’Ingannati, which features twins who are mistaken for each other and contains a version of the Viola-Olivia-Orsino love triangle (2) a 1581 English story entitled “Apollonius and Silla,” has a shipwreck, a pair of twins, and a woman disguised as a man.
Subplot with Malvolio, Sir Toby, and Maria Merry Wives of Windsor : Merry Wives of Windsor Written in 1597-8
Most middle-class play in setting, subject matter, and outlook.
Most farcical works, using physical gags and linguistic jokes to establish a comic tone that influence the play's ultimate spirit of reconciliation, after all the intrigues have been sorted out.
Gives an impression of life in an English provincial town as it was lived at the time of the play's first performance. It refers to older English, Italian, Roman plays. Though the play does contain characters both above and below the middle class, as well as culturally stereotyped foreigners, ultimately everything functions to demonstrate the assimilating power of the middle class.
The first performance of this play was at a feast of the Order of the Garter which Queen Elizabeth attended. Elizabeth saw Henry IV, Part I and so liked the character of Falstaff that she asked Shakespeare to write another play about him, allegedly allotting him only 14 days. Shakespeare may have put aside Henry IV, Part 2 to complete Merry Wives, and he included several characters who reappear from both plays, including Pistol, Nim, Bardolph, Mistress Quickly, and Shallow. Falstaff and his entourage supposedly were good friends with Prince Henry, later Henry V, which lends a monarchal touch to the more suburban events of Merry Wives. Measure for Measure : Measure for Measure A "dark" comedy about moral issues of Christianity.
Secret identities and a lot of manipulation. The plot is complexly woven, and the resolution of the play comes with the unraveling of the layers of intrigue created by the Duke.
The Duke functions as a master of ceremonies. Although he has placed another man in his position during his absence, he is still manipulating all the occurrences in town. He is unfailingly wise in a way that most Shakespearean characters are not. He is a good, kind, devoted leader, but his one fault lies in his inability to maintain order. For this he calls in Angelo, and through this he pardons him.
A problem play, because it brings up a difficulty and then seeks to solve it. However, the difficulty lies in misunderstandings and hidden identities, not in the real moral questions of the play. No character comes to reconsider his or her beliefs about freedom, justice, sexual relationships, or morality. A very intriguing question--whether or not Isabella should commit a sin in order to save her brother--is never discussed in any great detail. The Tempest : The Tempest Written in 1611, most likely the last play written entirely by Shakespeare
Remarkable for being one of only two plays by Shakespeare whose plot is entirely original.
Draws on the account of a tempest off the Bermudas that wrecked a fleet of ships sailing from Plymouth to Virginia. The English colonial project seems to be on Shakespeare’s mind throughout The Tempest, as almost every character, from the lord Gonzalo to the drunk Stefano, ponders how he would rule the island on which the play is set if he were its king.
Drawn on Montaigne’s essay “Of the Cannibals,”. Servant-monster, Caliban, an anagram of “Cannibal.”
When Gonzalo, Sebastian, and Antonio argue whether the island is beautiful or barren, the bareness of the stage would have allowed either option in the audience’s mind.
The play has a feeling of a masque, a highly stylized form of dramatic, musical entertainment.
It is tempting to think of The Tempest as Shakespeare’s farewell to the stage because of its theme of a great magician giving up his art. Indeed, we can interpret Prospero’s reference to the dissolution of “the great globe itself” as an allusion to Shakespeare’s theatre.