Detailed Analysis of Shakespearean Comedy

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Q. Write an essay on Shakespearean Comedy.

      “The essentials of Shakespearean Comedy at its best are, after all, simple and obvious enough - a delightful story, conducted, in some romantic region, by gracious and gallant persons, thwarted or aided by the mirthful god, circumstance and arriving at a fortunate issue”. — Dowden.

      “Far away and long ago: a situation of Romantic improbability: Romantic characters in action exemplifying the law of impossible probability: a love story plotted with ethical seriousness and ending happily: a heroine who is the mind, heart and soul of the play its laughter, its love, and its infallible wisdom—these are the elements that mix to make the substance of Shakespearean Romantic Comedy”. — Iyenger


      In England, there were two theories of comedy, the romantic and the satirical. The one beloved to the middle ages the other to the Renaissance. Shakespeare and Ben Jonson are the champions of the two types of comedy. Shakespeare’s comedies are called romantic while those of Ben Jonson is called classical.

Shakespeare’s Comedy: Compared with the Classical Comedy

      In order to understand Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, it is necessary to differentiate it from the Classical comedy. The basis of Shakespearean comedy, as Nevill Coghill says, is the simple formula of Vincent de Beauvais - a tale of trouble that turns to joy. In comedy, things are just the opposite of tragedy. In tragedy ‘life is to be fled from’; in comedy ‘it is to be grasped’. This is the view of the comedy of the middle ages from which sprang romantic comedy. The Renaissance view of comedy from which originated satirical or classical comedy is different. Sympathy is the keynote of the Romantic comedy. Classical comedy rests itself on ridicule. Imagination opens the gate way to Romantic Comedy. Satire is what we find in the world of Classical Comedy. The true basis of Romantic comedy is love. In Classical comedy we find only sex and hate. It is unlike Romantic comedy not opposite to Tragedy. Comedy is only the instrument of social ethics and its main business is punishment of crimes. The Romantic comedy is summed up in the word ‘Freedom’, while the Classical Comedy is bound by the rules. Classical comedy observes strictly unities of time, place and action, romantic comedy observes unity of action, but not unities of time and place as in The Tempest. In classical comedy the comic and the tragic are strictly separated while the Shakespearean romantic comedy is the mingled yam of happiness and woe. Classical comedy believes in realism. It deals with the realities of the day. In Romantic Comedy we are transported to far-off distant lands. The aim of the classical comedy is to cure the society of the follies; weaknesses are exposed and ridiculed. The aim of Ben Jonson’s comedies is to

Strip the ragged follies of the time,
Naked, as at their birth, and with a whip of steel,
Print wounding lashes in their iron ribs.

      Shakespearean romantic comedy believes in imagination, sympathy and love. For understanding Shakespearean comedy, we may quote, in contrast to the above lines of Ben Jonson, the following lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More, than cool reason ever comprehends
The lunatic, the lover cmd the poet
Are of imagination all compact
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt: The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven: And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothings A local habitation and a name.

      Coghill differentiates the two types of comedy in the following words, “The Satiric concerns a middle way of life, town-dwellers, humble and private people. It pursues the principal characters with some bitterness for their vices and teaches what is useful and expedient in life and what is to be avoided. The Romantic expresses the idea that life is to be grasped. It is the opposite of Tragedy in that the catastrophe solves all confusion and misunderstandings by some happy turn of events. It commonly includes love making and running off with girls.”

      As Raleigh also says, satirical comedy takes its stand on the best social usage, and laughs at the follies of the idealists. “Its feet are planted firmly on the earth beneath, and it pays no regard to the heavens above, nor to the waters that are under the earth.” But the imagination of Shakespeare is so wide and far-reaching that it cannot be narrowed down to a single attitude. His mind is always open to the wider issues, which reach out on all sides, into fantasy or metaphysic. John Palmer also thinks that imagination is the keynote of the Shakespearean Romantic Comedy, and it is this that distinguishes it from the Classical Comedy. “Shakespeare’s comedy lies in the quality of his imaginative reaction to life itself”. As Shakespearean comedy rests on imagination in contrast to realism in Classical Comedy, so it has sympathy as opposed to satire. We never laugh at the characters, we laugh with them. The appeal of his comic characters, even as we laugh at them, is to the touch of nature which makes the whole world kind. His characters though laughable, are lovable. This is the sweetness and geniality of Shakespeare’s comic approach. Shakespeare though detached from his characters, sympathized with them. Shakespeare’s detachment was from himself and not from his creatures. He is objective and yet subjective. His is the negative capability. Shakespeare is objective because as a true dramatist he stands aloof, and does not appear in his own person. But he is subjective in the sense that he identifies himself in imagination with his characters. He is sometimes Prospero, Hamlet, Rosalind, and yet he is none of them. He is Shakespeare. This sympathy, which is the keynote of Shakespeare’s Romantic comedy is not found in Classicial comedy. In Classical comedy, we laugh at the characters. In Romantic comedy we laugh with them.

      H.B. Charlton in his Shakespearean Comedy has explained the difference between these two types of comedy in the most suitable language. He says, “To see these plays as a form of comedy, it is perhaps easiest to begin by realizing that in kind they are essentially and obviously different from traditional Classical comedy. Their main characters arouse admiration; they excite neither scorn nor contempt. They inspire us to be happy with them; they do not merely cajole us into laughing at them. Therein lies the fundamental difference between Classical and Shakespearean Comedy. Classical Comedy is conservative. It implies a world which has reached stability sufficient for itself Its members are assumed to be fully aware of the habits and the morals which preserve an already attained state of general well-being. The main interest is the exposure of offenders against common practice and against unquestioned propriety in the established fitness of things. Hence, its manner is satire, and its stand point is public common sense. But Shakespearean comedy is a more venturesome and a more imaginative undertaking. It does not assume that the conditions and the requisites of man’s welfare have been certainly established, and are therefore a sanctity to be safeguarded. It speculates imaginatively on modes, not of preserving a good already reached, but of enlarging and extending the possibilities of this and other kinds of good. Its heroes are voyagers in pursuit of a happiness not yet attained, a brave new world wherein man’s life may be fuller; his sensation more exquisite and his joys more wide spread, more lasting, and so more humane. But as the discoverer reaches this higher bliss, he is making his conquests in these realms of the spirit accessible not only to himself but to all others in whom he has inspired the same way of apprehending existence. He has not merely preserved the good which was; he has refined varied and widely extended it. Hence Shakespearean Comedy is not finally satiric; it poetic. It is not conservative, it is creative. The way of it is that of the imagination, rather than that of pure reason. It is an artist’s vision, not a critic’s exposition.”

Eldorado in Comedy

      Shakespearean comedy is romantic not only because it is not classical. It transports us on the wings of imagination to the distant places, and provides an escape from the sordid realities of life. The world of Shakespearean comedy, according to Raleigh, is a “rainbow world of love in idleness”. We are sometimes transported to the forest of Arden and sometimes to the shores of Ilyria. And then there is Messina, and the Wood near Athens. And there are other places where anything may occur any time. “There are the vast expanse of a less known world; romantic countries on whose coasts all the strange and stirring episodes that man has dreamed may come true; shipwrecks, piracy, warfare, marvelous escapes from imminent death, hazards boldly and even recklessly encountered.” Such are the magic countries. They are the dreamlands where music is the food of love. These far-off countries exist nowhere but in imagination. They have no location. They are only names. They have no post offices and leave no address. In these lands of romance and enchantment, there is no business but that of courting and laughing. People live in the golden age and time passes leisurely. They have no work; they don’t go to the offices or colleges. They have an open-air atmosphere and the lovers and their lasses wander in search of each other. There are no cares and anxieties for the daily food. The intensities and realities of life shimmer into smoke and film in that delicate atmosphere. Nobody ever goes to business. The Merchant of Venice and Comedy of Errors are the only exceptions because they open on public mart. What a magical world there is in The Tempest! And A Midsummer Night’s Dream breathes the air of romance with naughty Puck and the beautiful fairies. Such is the romantic world of Shakespearean comedy. “This is the air, this is the glorious sun.”

The World of Spirit is extended: Music and Love

      But it is not only in these respects that romantic comedy is richer than the classical comedy. The important and essential tiling is that the world of the spirit has been extended. Man has become a lover of music. In Elizabethan time music was as common as eating or drinking.

O, fellow, come, the song we had last night
And the free maids that weave their thread with bones
Do use, to chant.

      Even melancholy Jaques sings a song, such is the wonder. “That strain again” relieves Orsino of his passion. Twelfth Night begins with If music be the food of love play on. Man had discovered that he was a much less rational and a much more complex creature than had taken himself to be. His instincts and his intuitions, his emotions and his moods were as real and as distinctive a part of him as his reason and his plain common sense. Love and machines are no longer mean and physical manifestations. To love a woman is divine. To love a woman is to glorify the kingdom of God. Love awakens in man the fuller capacity of his spirit.

      Shakespearean comedy is primarily a story of love. Love had willy-nilly always been the major interest. There is always the ringing of marriage bells. Not only the heroes and heroines, but the fools are in love too. They always love at first sight— whoever loved that loved not, at first sight, is the key note of love. Raleigh says “the summons (of love) is as inevitable and unforeseen as that of death; it comes to all, clown and courtier, wayward youth and serious maiden leading them forth on the dance of Love through that maze of happy adventure which is Shakespeare’s comedy.” As his tragedies end in multiple deaths, so his comedies end in multiple marriages. “His lovers” says Coghill, “for the most part, love at first sight, like the Lover in the Roman de la Rose; and like him, they are ‘gentil’, for love is essentially an aristocratic experience”. In order to love each other our hearts should be refined. There is a lot of exploration in the world of his comedy. His golden world is full of adventure. And the greatest adventure is love. It is an Eden world, and the apples are still in blossom. It is an Eldorado ‘a golden world’ where lovers and lasses have reached in search of happiness.

      Romantic Comedy is thus pre-eminently the comedy of love. It is its specific occupation with wooing which distinguishes it most markedly from classical or Roman comedy. “Love is a mighty lord” in his plays. If the heroes are away from their lasses, they must sigh. Such is the languishing fidelity of the lovers. Nothing in life is significant if there is no love.

What light is light if Sylvia be not seen?
What joy is joy if Sylvia be not by?
Except I be by Sylvia in the night,
There is no music in the nightingale,
Unless I look on sylvia in the day
There is no clay for me to look up on.
She is my essence and I leave to be,
If I am not by her fair influence
Fostered illumined, cherished, kept alive.

      Such is the distraction in love. Such is the madness. Lunacy and love are not different things. “Love is merely a madness, and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do: and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too”. There is no reason in loving. If you reason about your love, you will feel the awkwardness. This youthful love has no commerce with reason. It is ‘high fantastical.’ In A Midsummer Night Dream Titania the faery queen, loves an ass.

      These comedies are an exploration of happiness. And love plays an important role. Charlton says, “He is revealing to us that, whether we like it or not, whether we ought not to do it, it is clear to the eye of the seer that love is the one way to supreme happiness on this earth.”

      Love is divine and elevates what it touches. Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream says:

Things base and vile holding no quantity,
Love can transport to farm and dignity;
Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.

      The heroines fall deeply in love. They show the best of their wit, strength and charm when they are in the presence of their lovers. Rosalind is at her most charming when talking to Orlando, Portia more poetic in the company of Bassanio, Olivia gay only before disguised Viola, and Beatrice more witty when faced with Benedick. Love brings about the fulfillment of desires. It is a magnet strong enough to draw our attention. Love is never explored by one who has mistaken views about himself So love cures the delusions. In Twelfth Night the Duke and Olivia are cured. And so is Phebe cured in As You Like It. ‘The first essential for a lasting love of someone else is a sound assessment of one’s own identity. Only when we see clearly what we have to give and what we need from others, can we Begin to happy a deux.”

      Shakespearean comedy is full of variety and heterogeneous elements. Love is the center. It unites these elements and keeps these plays from falling to pieces.

Women in the Comedy

      Love is therefore the touchstone for measuring the fineness of the spirits. The lovers in Shakespearean comedy cover their real passions. Beatrice and Benedick adopt a kind of ‘inverted technique of love making’. Rosalind in disguise teaches Orlando how to woo. Viola expresses her love by indirect hints. These women fall deeply in love but they never overstep the bounds of modesty. Rosalind. Viola and Beatrice are Shakespeare’s images of the best way of love. They inspire love in men and uplift them to a higher richer life. Women are the queens of comedy. Shakespeare found the balance in them. It is the women who wander in search for happiness. And after achieving it they distribute it among others.

Shakespearean Comedy is not soft: Another Departure from Classical Comedy

      Love at first sight is the first characteristic of Shakespearean comedy. Yet another characteristic is that Shakespearean comedy is not soft. In Classical comedy happiness does not mingle with sorrow. Shakespearean comedy is woven of the woo of tears and smiles.

“The course of true love did never run smooth.”

      This is true of Shakespeare’s comedies. Thorndike writes, “The course of true love for each couple is crossed by separation, misunderstanding, disguise, magic and perhaps the temporary unfaithfulness of one. Lovers and ladies must pass through adventure, combats and risks to final reunion. Fate, which casts its dark shadows in the world of tragedy, smiles benevolently on the world of Shakespearean comedy. The ships of Antony return safely. Sebastian reaches in time to save Viola from the duel, the complicated love tangle in A Midsummer Night's Dream is resolved and Dogberry and Verges overhear the villainous plot in Much Ado About Nothing. Viola says rightly:

O Time thou must untangle this not I
It is too hard a knot for me to untie.

      So the comedies too face the problems of human wrong doing and suffering. “All Shakespearean comedy seeks to absorb violence and suffering into healing and regenerating wholness.” The breathings of tragic feelings are found even in the gayest of the early comedies. On the leaden casket is engraved the motto of Shakespeare’s philosophy: “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.”

Wit and Humour

      Wit and good sense there are in plenty. And there is always a fool who brings about wit, mirth and gaity in the play. Women and fools are like sunshine in the dark clouds. There is God’s plenty so far as mirthfulness is concerned for there are Bottom. Feste, Sir Andrew, Sir Toby, Touchstone, Dogberry and others. They believe in eating, drinking and being merry. Their spirit lies in “because thou art virtuous, shall there be no more cakes and ale?” Thus the motley of romantic comedies is more subtle than the slapdash skittle-knocking of the satire in Classical comedy. They entice to a richer wisdom by alluring the imagination into desire for larger delights. They are not mainly concerned to whip offenders into conventional propriety by scorn and mockery. They persuade one to the better state by presenting it in all its attractiveness: they depict a land of heart’s desire and doing that, reveal the way of human and natural magic by which it is to be attained.”

Blending of Romance and Realism

      By what we have known so for one may think that the comedies of Shakespeare are unsubstantial; there are magic lands like Ilyria and the Forest of Arden, there are heroines like Rosalind's and Violas and heroes like Orlandos and Orsinos who pass their time leisurely in dreamlands “where music is the food of love.” There are mountains and forests where are found lions and snakes. It is a ‘golden world’ where the tale of true love may run its uneven course. And thus it seems that the world of Shakespearean comedy is far from reality, Such, however, is not the case. “Though the ultimate world of Shakespeare’s comedy is romantic, poetic, and imaginative, it is by no means unsubstantial and fantastic. The forest of Arden is no conventional Arcadia. Its inhabitants are not exempt from the penalty of Adam. Winter, rough weather, the season’s difference, the icy fang and churlish chiding of the winter’s wind invade Arden as often as they invade the hemisphere of ours. Nor does marina fall to it from heaven. One may come by a sufficient sustenance of flesh, if one has the weapons and the impulse to make a breach in the conventionality of idyllic Nature by killing its own creatures the deer to whom the forest is the assigned and native dwelling place. Arden, too is not ignorant of the earthly landlordism which cramps the laborer’s life with harshness.

My master is of churlish disposition
And little recks to find the way to heaven
By doing deeds of hospitality

      And after all, pastoral life in Arden is merely episodic in the round of man’s fuller existence: “when I was at home, I was in a better place” Rosalind and Orlando will return to live their adult life in the society of man and in a civilization which will impose on them the duties of extended social responsibilities. Only by hearsay is life in Arden reputed to be fleeting the time carelessly as they did in the golden age; even young Orlando knows that it may be a losing and a neglecting of the creeping hours. Arden, indeed, may properly excite the witticism of Touchstone by its rusticities; it may Brouse the twisted sentimentalism of Jaques by its Darwinian illustrations of the cruel struggle for survival.”

      Though there is a lot of romance but there are subtle touches of realism. Shakespeare may soar high in heavens but his feet are fixed on the earth. There may be Ardens and Ilyrias and improbable incidents but the characters are life-like. They are real. The romantic main plot is combined with a realistic sub-plot. Though there are romantic Rosalind and Orlando, yet there is Jaques too. Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream always reminds the reality of life and in Twelfth Night there is Malvolio who reminds us of the reality of life. Allardyce Nicoll has beautifully expressed this idea in his “Shakespeare”. “Characters and scenes alike are viewed through magic casements which transform reality. The settings are all imaginative—an unknown island, Arden, Illyria and Venice - each one conceived in the glow of a strong and beautiful fancy. Yet all are related to real life. There are contemporary figures and contemporary fashions in Love's Labour Lost, Bottom and his companions mingle with the fairies; Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew are companions of Viola and Olivia; Dogberry and Verges of Hero and Beatrice.” So realism and romance are blended together in the comedies of Shakespeare. “Time after time he set out hopefully in the cockleshell boat of romantic comedy, only, to see it sink under the load of actuality he tried to pack into it.”

Willing Suspension of Disbelief

      Yet Shakespearean comedy remains elusive and ethereal. It is deceptive. It is made of the stuff of romance. Its substance lies in love tales. Its sweetness lies in music and its brilliance in wit and chit-chat. There is no problem of bread and butter and there is no want of money. It is unsubstantial—far from reality, far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife. But somehow Shakespeare makes us believe that it is not unreal. How does he do it? He befools us into believing in its reality. Shakespeare brings about the willing suspension of disbelief in the following way.

      He chooses for his story a far-off country like Belmont, Messina or Illyria. Persons may not believe strange things happening in London, Paris or Delhi, but they will easily believe even impossible things happening in unheard distant lands of no address. “The advantage of the Romantic preference for remoteness in time and space is obvious.” Mark Hunter says, “Remoteness weakens or completely removes the impression of improbability”.

      So distance in time and space makes us believe many things. Even the most strange things happening in unknown countries thousand years before will be believed easily by most of the persons. Yet really speaking these unknown countries are no other but some part of England. Gordon says, “It is in his power over these two worlds, in his ostensible alternation between Nowhere and England, that Shakespeare’s romantic comedies excel all others.”

      Romantic improbability is simply the improbability of a dream. Most of the things we see in a dream may not be true but no one challenges the dream itself Shakespearean romantic comedy is a dream in which impossible things are possible.

      Many things are kept out (a) Tragedy is kept out. A Romantic Comedy may perilously be near a tragedy as in The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado, yet may not touch it actually, (b) History with its facts may destroy the illusion of romance. So it is kept out. (c) Satire is also kept out of the realm of Romantic Comedy because it may also destroy the illusion.

      All is fair in love and war. And any strange thing may happen in love. Therefore love is the center of Shakespearean comedy. Love is identified with a young woman who is the savior of the romantic comedy.

      Shakespeare tells in his comedies, a story not only of high life but of the highest in each particular case possible, hi the highest strata of life anything is possible.

      In order to make his romance believed Shakespeare blends romance and comedy. Gordon writes—

      “Shakespeare proceeded, as he always does, by compromise. If comedy laughs, Romance is not to be offended; if love sighs, Comedy promises to put up with it - to a point I to a point I”

      The comic scenes provide contrast and relief to Romanticism. They create a climate of realism in which the Romantic improbability may be accepted without question.

      In order to make things believed, Shakespeare repeats the leitmotiv of the comedy in different patterns. In Twelfth Night there is the lofty romance between Viola and the Duke, and the sentimental romance between the Duke and Olivia. To unsentimental romance, there is the wooing of Olivia by Malvolio. In As You Like It the deep romance between Rosalind and Orlando is unsentimentalized by the wooing of Phebe by Silvius, and of Audrey by Touchstone. “This repetition of the leitmotiv on a lower plane is highly effective dramatically because it helps to unsentimentalize a romantic play and very often provides a comedy with its own ironical commentary. It also helps to hold the mirror up to the same theme from different angles of vision and thus produce that large-hearted tolerant and all inclusive view of life which is Shakespeare’s principal achievement in comedy.”

      Some stories may not be believed but when themes run parallel to show either contrast or similarity, they are believed. Persons may not believe that the Duke Frederick usurped the throne and banished the Duke Senior but when they read the story of Orlando and Oliver on the same lines they easily believe it. Similarly, the intensity of love between Orlando and Rosalind is soon believed when the readers find the same intensity in Silvius’ love for Phebe.

      The heroes and the heroines may be caught in exceptional situations but their behavior is touched with verisimilitude. Though the situations in which they are caught are abnormal, the heroes and the heroines act reasonably. Mark Hunter calls it ‘the higher realism.’

      “It is the art of Shakespeare that creates the illusion that what is, perhaps, impossible in the eyes of common sense can none the less be acclaimed as the higher probability, the veracity of the world of Romance. Since, for the time being, it is the imagination that lays down the law, we are not only content, we also ask for nothing better.”

Distinctiveness of Shakespearean Comedy: Exploration of Character or Search for Happiness?

      What is the distinctiveness of Shakespearean comedy? Does it consist only in presenting intrigue within intrigue and in introducing a large variety of characters? If that were so, Shakespeare would be only of his age and not for all times, and Fletcher would be his rival, if not his superior. But Shakespeare is greater than all his contemporaries. He remains the greatest dramatist in England. Wherein does lie his excellence and distinctiveness? Charlton says that in Shakespearean comedy there is the picture of a progressive attempt at the conquest of happiness. According to him, Shakespeare has sought intuitively to embody in his comic heroes more and more of this capacity for conquering the world. Shakespeare’s comic idea was, in effect, an explicit recognition that man depends, not merely for his success in life, but for his survival through life on his possession of cool reason. He should not be frantic and fraught with wild emotions have reason enough to distinguish between bushes and bears. Charlton applies this theory to all the comedies of Shakespeare. According to Sen Gupta, Charlton experiences the greatest difficulty in applying his theory to the dark comedies in which Shakespeare seems to express a gloomy picture of life. But he looks upon them as making a stage in the development of Shakespeare’s comic ideas. S.C. Sen Gupta objects to this view of Charlton. He argues that according to this view of Charlton, comedy becomes a form of morality rather than an artistic creation. He points out that Charlton discusses Falstaff as an ethical experiment and not as Shakespeare’s masterpiece in comic portraiture. According to Sen Gupta, the distinctiveness of Shakespearean Comedy lies in Character. He says, “The real excellence of a Shakespearean Comedy lies not so much in the philosophy that may be gleaned from it or in the romantic atmosphere he diffuses over it as in characterization, in the unity and diversity, logic and inconsistency, vividness and incomprehensibility, which mark his stuffy of human personality, there are surprises, contrasts, incongruities, disguises and confusions, but all these are used as means to the exploration of character never as ends in themselves.”

      So far as I think the excellence of a Shakespearean comedy does not lie in exploring character. There is no full development of character in Shakespearean comedy. Characterization is sometimes sacrificed so that the story may proceed according ta the dramatist’s wishes and may end in comedy. In comedies happiness must be sought at the expense of everything. And as the women possess the balance and equipoise between heart and mind, they are charged with the exploration of happiness. In Much Ado it is Beatrice, in Merchant of Venice it is Portia, in Twelfth Night it is Viola, and in A You Like It it is Rosalind.

      For the sake of this happiness characters are not fully drawn and many things remain unconvincing. How is it that the Duke Frederick converts and becomes a saint? How is it that Oliver becomes a saint in one moment? Is there any consistency in character? How is it that Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind after keeping her for so many years? Why this churlish disposition? In Twelfth Night is it not the chance that dominates the play? What is the significant characters there? Is not kind fate smiling that brings happiness? In Much Ado is it not again just by chance that Dogberry overhears the conspiracy? Is it not this chance that brings about happiness? And Moulton says about The Merchant of Venice:

“That such a bond should be proposed, that when proposed it should be accepted, that it should be seriously entertained by a court of justice, that if entertained at all it should be upset by so frivolous a pretext as the omission of reference to the shedding of blood: these form a series of impossible circumstances that any dramatist might despair of presenting with even an approach to naturalness.”

      And what shall we say of the romance where everything improbable occurs, where plot and character are sacrificed for achieving something else? What shall we say to the character of Leontes in The Winter's Tale? Is not Leontes inconsistent in his jealousy? And what about others? Can we say now with Sen Gupta that the excellence of Shakespearean comedy lies in characterization? No, never. It does not lie even in plot. It lies in the exploration of happiness. Whatever may happen, whatever the characters may be, it is essential that because it is comedy it should end in happiness. All other factors only help exploring this happiness. All other things, plot, characterization, intrigue, disguise, unity, diversity, logic, vividness, surprises, contrasts, and incomprehensibility help in the exploration of this happiness. They may even be sacrificed so that happiness may be sought. The excellence of Shakespearean comedy lies in the exploration of happiness.

      It is time I should sum up this long discussion on Shakespearean comedy.

      Shakespearean comedy is romantic while the classical comedy is satirical. Liberation sums up Shakespearean comedy. Order is the keynote of the classical comedy. The classical comedy exposes while the romantic comedy inspires. Classical comedy is a critical formula while the romantic comedy is full of vision and imagination.

In Shakespearean comedy there are such far-off countries as the forest of Arden. Illyria, a wood near Athens and so on.

Music deepens the romantic element.

It is not only that there are eldoradoes explored; the world of spirit is extended.

In Shakespearean comedy tears and smiles are woven together. His comedies are not soft. Shakespeare cannot jest without thinking of sorrow, and his jesting is the deeper for it.

Love is the centre of gravity in his comedies. He can not dream of love without hearing the ominous sweep of Time’s fell scythe, his love thereby becomes the more profound.

Wit and humour bring about mirth and gaiety in the plays. Shakespearean fools are very wise.

Shakespearean Comedy is not all air and romance. Romance is blended with realism.

There is willing suspension of disbelief in his comedies. He makes incredible thing credible by his art.

The distinctiveness of Shakespearean comedy lies in the exploration of happiness and not in the depiction of character in the development of the plot.

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