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Comedies and Romances of Shakespeare

A review of selected comedies and romances of Shakespeare strongly suggests that Shakespeare's theory of comedy comes from two sources: characterization and the turning of serious situations upside down to make them complicated and funny-- only to resolve them and create an ordered life for all concerned. In that regard, Langer says, "Destiny in the guise of Fortune is the fabric of comedy . . . or philosophical acceptance of mischance" (331).

In The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio sets out to domesticate an obstreperous Kate as he would a pet falcon, to "cure her mad and headstrong humor" (IV.ii). The humor arises from what in real life would not be a comic situation--what for her was a forced marriage. Why that is comic goes to the fact that they were meant for each other. Kate has no intention of being a submissive wife, and Petruchio has no intention of marrying one: "I tell you, father, / I am as peremptory as she proud-minded; / And where two raging fires meet together / They do consume the thing that feeds their fury" (II.i). It remains only for them to find common ground. When Kate acquiesces in domestication--"a woman moved is like a fountain troubled, / Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty" (V.ii)--it is as if he's got her right where she wants him. Whether she has truly surrendered pride or just gotten the joke, she knows how to handle her husband, much as a pet learns how to train the master. The play closes as a celebration of a marriage of equals, making sense of the universe.

There are three sets of disparately comic characters and one profoundly confused situation in Midsummer Night's Dream: the young lovers, the feuding fairies, and the rude mechanicals, all of whom make it to the mythical Athenian forest. The very title of A Midsummer Night's Dream suggests the whole play is a flight of imagination and fancy. Only in a dream could the Greek-myth figures of Hippolyta and Theseus, fairy royalty such as Titan...

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Comedies and Romances of Shakespeare. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:55, August 14, 2020, from