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Essay/Term paper: The characteristics of shakespeare's comedies

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Shakespeare

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The Characteristics of Shakespeare's 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 "romances". Shakespeare's 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 Night's 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 Shakespeare's 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 "For lying so, Hermia, I do not lie".
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 "You have her father's love. Do you marry him"
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 "I kiss the walls hole" or
"Cursed be thy stones" 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 "Thou art as wise, as thou art
beautiful" 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, "Whereat, with
blade, with bloody blameful blade, he bravely broached his boiling bloody
breast", it sounds awkward and pointless. Mispronunciations like perfet instead
of perfect and bad punctuation like "We do not come, as minding to content you,
our true intent is." makes the characters sound silly and the play rather funny.
At the end w hen 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 shouldn't speak, because the line is actually Thisby's 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 Night's 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. Helena's 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 T itania 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 Shakespeare's 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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