Mature Comedies of Shakespearean Comedy

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      The Merchant of Venice. The play resolves itself into a simple form. It illustrates the clash between the emotional and the intellectual characters, the man of heart and the man of brain. The man of heart, Antonio, is obsessed by tenderness for his friend. The man of brain is obsessed by lust to uphold intellect in a thoughtless world that makes intellect bitter in every age. Shylock is a man of intellect born into a despised race. It is his tragedy that the generous Gentile about him can be generous to everything except to intellect and Jewish blood. Intellect and Jewish blood are too proud to attempt to understand the Gentiles who cannot understand.

      Shylock is a proud man. The Gentiles, who are neither proud nor intellectual, spit upon him and flout him. One of them beguiles his daughter and teaches her to rob him. One of them beguiles his daughter and teaches her to rob him. Another one of them sings a mad bond to help an extravagant friend to live n idleness. Bitter, lonely brooding upon these things strengthen the Jew's obsession, till the words, "I can out the heart of my enemy," become the message of his entire nature. Half the evils in life comes from the partial vision of people in states of obsession. Shy lock's obsession grows till he is in the Duke's court, whetting his knife upon his shoe, before what Pistol calls "incision".

      Portia has been much praised during two centuries of criticism. She is one of the smiling things created in the large and gentle mood that moved Shakespeare to comedy. The scene in the fifth act, where the two women, coming home from Venice by night, see the candle burning in the hall, as they draw near, is full of naturalness that makes beauty quicken the heart. Shakespeare enjoyed the writing of this play. The construction of the last two acts shows that his great happy mind was its happiest in the saving of these creatures of the sun from something real.

      Much Ado About Nothing. One of the most brilliant of Shakespeare's plays, Much Ado About Nothing, is nevertheless not among the favorites of most readers. The plot and the dialogue are artfully conceived and executed, but the comedy is often so near tragedy that it does not have the flavor of many of the other comedies. It was the first of his plays in which the comic and serious plots were so woven together that the outcome of one was dependent upon the other. This work was one of the last comedies Shakespeare wrote; it is thought that his awakening moral consciousness, evidenced here forced him into the tragedies which are based completely on themes of moral transgression and human frailty.

      As you Like It. Shakespeare took most of the plot of this play from a popular novel of the period, Rosalynde by Thomas Lodge. What he added was dramatic characterization and wit. As You Like It is a comedy compounded of many elements, but the whole is set to some of Shakespeare's loveliest poetry. Kindliness, good fellowship, good-will-these are the elements of As You Like It, and Shakespeare show how much they are worth.

      Twelfth Night. Because of its title, it is assumed that this play was intended to be performed as a feature of the Twelfth Night festivities observed in Shakespeare's day. One of Shakespeare's most delightful comedies, the principal charm of Twelfth Night, Or what You Will lies in the comic characters: Malvolio, Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Maria. Viola, the heroine, ranks with Portia and Rosland in intelligence and wit. The original source of the plot was an Italian novella by Bandello, based on an earlier work by Cinthio, but the story was translated into various secondary sources which Shakespeare probably used. In the character of Malvolio, the playwright pokes sly fun at the Puritans of his day.

      The Merry Wives of Windsor. Never was there a more lovable or merrier rogue than Sir John Falstaff. Indeed, he has become the very essence of all stumbling, drunken scoundrels but scoundrels against whom no one can long hold a grudge. It is a to Falstaff that The Merry Wives of Windsor owes its great popularity. The plot is simple but highly amusing, a story of women plotting towards the ruination of one man and the complete subjection of another. The resulting situations are hilarious. The sub-plot of love conquering all is another favorite of the theatre. But it is Falstaff, the lovable of, who brings the reader back to this play again and again.

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