Term Paper on the Character of Shakespeare Comedies

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The Characteristics of Shakespeare Comedies

Shakespeare wrote many different forms of literary works and one of them is comedy. At the end of his professional life he had written four famous comedies which were later called his ³romances². Shakespeare¹s comedies were not primarily love stories but they all included a love plot. His romances all had the happy ending of a comedy, but in a way they hinted on violence (Prentice Hall Literature). His focus and emphasis was clearly towards the structure and language of his comedies, which made his comedies quite distinct from others. The ideas and concepts also made his comedies designated, as we experienced it in one of his most famous comedy A Midsummer Night¹s Dream.
The structure of Shakespeare comedies is common in all his comic drama. The play goes through three phases. In the first stage there is order and discipline. Then it goes through a situation where there is chaos and disorder. Finally in the third stage order is restored again and the play ends in a festive ending. In the beginning of A Midsummer Nights Dream we see that Theseus has entire control over the people in Athens and he is getting ready to wed Hyppolita, queen of the amazons. Then quickly the whole situation changes when Lysander and Hermia flee into the forest and complications start to build up. The play ends with a joyful ending, when daylight has returned, the duke and duchess and the four lovers are united in the bonds of marriage and they are entertaining themselves with dance and music. Their world of love has come to its proper order.
The language was evidently the main reason why Shakespeare¹s comedies were more amusing than other comedies of his time. He used many techniques to illustrate humor, and sometimes we have to know the inner meanings to find it comical. The play of words or puns were very popular in the comedies of Shakespeare. Quince makes a good pun when he mentions the French crown. It is a pun because it could have more than one meaning, it could mean gold coins or also baldness which is often caused by treatments of STD. Another good example of a pun is what Lysander says to Hermia ³For lying so, Hermia, I do not lie². This example shows how good Shakespeare was at playing around with words as he uses the word lie in two different ways. Lie could mean both lying down or not telling the truth. Some of these puns show a lot of facetiousness and wit. Lysander says to Demetrius ³You have her father¹s love. Do you marry him² implying that Demetrius might be attractive to males. The obscene jokes also play a great part in making the play comical. What is particularly absorbing is that most of these unclean jokes are unintended. The actors mean something else, but we get the wrong message. When the actors say ³I kiss the walls hole² or ³Cursed be thy stones² they literally mean it, while our mind searches for hidden meanings. Oxymoron and ironies give an additional meaning for the reader. Titania who has fallen in love with an ass says ³Thou art as wise, as thou art beautiful² when we know that an ass is neither beautiful nor intelligent.
Another thing that makes the comedy humorous is the way Shakespeare shows stupidity among the characters. He uses different ways, like malapropism, exaggerated alliteration, mispronunciation and also bad punctuation. In the play we could easily distinguish the people who were not well educated through the mistakes they made when talking and acting. The craftsmen very often used wrong but similar words unintentionally which changed the meaning of what they were trying to say. They might use a big word and try to sound clever, when they actually sounded stupid. Using alliteration in a speech normally sounds penetrating and intelligent but when it is exaggerated like, ³Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade, he bravely broached his boiling bloody breast², it sounds awkward and pointless. Mispronunciations like perfet instead of perfect and bad punctuation like ³We do not come, as minding to content you, our true intent is.² makes the characters sound silly and the play rather funny. At the end when the workers were acting the Play Piramus and Thisbe we see how low their knowledge of acting was. Theseus says to the fellow members of the audience that since the wall is a person, it should curse back at Pyramus. He meant it as a joke, but Bottom without knowing where the proper parameters of the stage are, steps out of character and addresses Theseus directly, explaining that the wall shouldn¹t speak, because the line is actually Thisby¹s cue to come on stage.
Some of the ideas and concepts that we have encountered in the past are also found in Shakespeare comedies. The idea of love triangle is very important in A Midsummer Night¹s Dream. The love triangle formed conflicts and complications which developed into the main plot. Many characters became involved into the love triangle, and with the help of Puck the situation became more intense and sometimes very amusing. Another concept that we see in the play is the reversal of role between male and female: Helena chasing Demetrius, when it is usually the male chasing the female. Helena¹s role transforms from a passive feminine one to an active, assertive masculine one. Flute who is a male had to dress up and act like a female when he was Thisbe in the play. Also Pyramus was described of having cherry lips and white cheeks, which is actually an ideal description of a female. The idea of waking and dreaming was also very comical, since they were actually experiencing it all. All the Athenians, plus Bottom and Titania fell asleep sometimes during the play and they all woke up to have themselves or their situation changed. After waking from their final sleep, the lovers were amazed to see each other there and felt that their experiences were just dreams. All the fairy adventures that took place during the moonlit night seemed just dreamlike hallucinations. The ancient idea of metamorphosis is also expressed in Shakespeare¹s comedy. People are changing their understanding their feelings and their images throughout the play. With the love juice of cupid both Demetrius and Lysander learned to change the receiver of their affection. We see in the play that love can turn people around, and sometimes make asses of them. Bottom transforming into an ass was a good example of metamorphosis.
The structure, the language, the ideas and concepts are all important parts of a Shakespeare comedy and with these apparent characteristics it is quite easy to distinguish a Shakespeare play from another.



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