Experiment On Shakespearean Comedy

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      Love's Labour's Lost. There is little wonder that Love's Labour's Lost is not among the popular favorites of most readers of Shakespeare. The play is slow-moving, in places dull and it shows neither the perfection of plot nor the fineness of characterization which distinguish most of the later plays. At the same time, it is filled with clever talk and it exalts, in the romantic manner of the sonneteers, the theme of love. The note of seriousness apparent beneath the surface cleverness of the dialogue makes this play an early comedy of manners, in which the ladies try to teach the young noblemen the value of sincerity and faithfulness to vows. The foolish Armado and the stupid clown enliven many of the scenes with their wit. All in all, this drama is not a poor play; an early work, it is just not as good as most readers expect from the master dramatist.

      The Comedy of Errors. The Comedy of Errors is a farce comedy, at times bordering on slapstick. The situations make the farce, the characters being only incidental to the plot. It required a nimble wit to place each character at the right place at the exact time to increase the confusion already existing in the story. Here Shakespeare had not subtle moral, no lyrical expression of love, no purpose of any kind but to entertain with scenes of hilarious confusion. The reader must enter whole-heartedly into the spirit of fun and gaiety or his time is wasted. Absent is the perfection of structure and characterization of Shakespeare's later works, but nowhere does he surpass The Comedy of Errors in simple and side-splitting fun.

      The Taming of the Shrew. Often called rough and bawdy; The Taming of the Shrew has none of the lyrical poetry or the gentle humor that characterize most of Shakespeare's plays. This dramatic work is filled with wordy puns and coarse illusions; however, the vividness of language and rapid action sustain with excellent effect the demands of the plot. The play has long been one of the most popular of Shakespeare's works, and its main characters have become models for a shrewish woman a strong woman-tamer. Some literary authorities think that Shakespeare did not write the whole play, that the sub-plot was written by another. This scholarly dispute is not likely to concern the reader who enjoys a lusty; and witty play.

      Two Gentlemen of Verona. Written before Shakespeare's complete dramatic maturity; Two Gentlemen of Verona is a play of no great depth. True, it is romantic, witty gay; but the incidents are too pat to be believable. Some of the characters seem superficial playing roles in which they have no real concern. Also, the hero's quick and sympathetic forgiveness of the friend who had betrayed him so grossly strikes a false note. Nevertheless, the comedy is charming and engrossing and worthy of the reader's time. For, in spite of the faults, some of the bard's magic is there.

      A Midsummer Night's Dream. It is a romantic dream play; with hints for the plot taken from Chaucer's Knight's Tale, Plutarch's Life of Theseus, Montemayor's Diana, etc. Bathed in moonlight, it is an exquisite mixture of folklore, vivid rusticity, and fairy magic. Hermia, a lively little brunette, is in love with Lysander; Helena, a tall blonde is in love with Demetrius. Hermia's father insists that she must marry Demetrius or suffer death. Lysander and Hermia agree to escape to the woods; but Helena, to win the waning love of Demetrius, unfolds the plot to him. The woods, however, are haunted by fairies who have come to bless the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. The fairies, too, have their difficulties: King Oberon and Queen Titania are having a jealous quarrel. Oberon sends mischievous Puck to punish Titania by causing her to fall in love with a monster through the magic juice of a flower dropped on her eyelids. Oberon, observing the unhappy state of the Athenian mortals, commissions Puck to set matters right with the same flower. The result of the fairies intervention is to make only greater confusion among the lovers. In the meantime, some country bumpkins have been rehearsing a play for Theseus nuptials; sly Puck fixes an asses head on the greatest of these simpletons, Bottom. Titania falls in love with this uncouth monster. In the end, out of pity, Oberon removes with enchantment from Titania's eyes and makes all right between the lovers. Oberon and Titania make up their quarrel; Demetrius wants Helena; and Lysander's claims to Hermia are unchallenged. At the wedding festivities of Theseus and Hippolyta and the two pairs of lovers, the "most lamentable comedy of Pyramus and Thisby" is presented by the rustics in hilarious awkwardness. The play ends with singing and dancing and an epilogue by Puck. Everyone knows Puck's outburst: "Lord what fools these mortals be". The following lines are also celebrated.

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact,

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