Humor and the lower class in Shakespeare Essay
Humor and the lower class in Shakespeare
From the jigging veins springs the flow and creates a hilarious touch in the rhythm of souls- This is incredulous the power of no body else except Shakespeare. Shakespeare was a truly amazing 17th Century literary dude, creating the whole new gamut of human experience and emotions of both high and low, royal and sundry, bringing their lives in the fold of his words through his tragedy, romantic, history and comedy plays. Shakespeare is an appropriate symbol of human life which brings tears and smiles, sighs and shouts of joys.
So beyond bringing the tears and pondering over the history, he reaches the heart of man with his comedy plays. Comedy of Shakespeare moves in a world of its own away from satire or moral reforms. The comedy appears in the Renaissance period in its new form breaking from its conventional mode. Since sixteenth century this term was in use but to incorporate numerous types among whom many resembled the Greek and Latin comedies. The renaissance though saw the slight change in the trend of the comic strip but the spirit remained the same.
Before it, comedy was performed in the form of farce and clown-age by roaming entertainers and captured the morality completely due to its popularity. The comedy espouses the influence of not only with the plays of Plautus and Terence, but also showed the signs of Latin forms, the biblical Terentian plays, and the story with the theme of the Prodigal Son. The result was quite visible as there on the stages were seen the entire new style of dramatization of story and scenic entertainments which were full of fun and frolic.
Shakespeare also used what has become the tradition in the British Society, to laugh at a character’s lack of intellect. Shakespeare uses fools who were considered to be lacking in intelligence but are actually wiser, and clowns. These clowns were generally innocent characters, ignorant, sometimes dull witted and created a situation that is almost out his scope and thus keeps the comic actions going. By using the fools he sprinkled his plays with Jokes meant for the common man touching the audience’s intellectual level. The best example of the use of the fools is Falstaff in I Henry IV.
Falstaff is an embodiment of the vice of vanity, dishonest, proud and pretentious but on the other hand coward also, thus providing an entertainment value. The brothers Dromio in the Comedy of Errors is also fine example of the fools. Comedy of Error is Shakespeare’s earliest and classically inspired comedy particularly using the Plautus’s farcical play Menaechmi ( Twins). He created the comic scenes with the common people who found themselves engulfed in a farce of mistaken identities, due to the two pairs of twins who were separated because of the storm in the sea.
Some of the humor in Comedy of error is derived from the puns and wordplay, but the large part of it comes from slapstick and mistaken identity, and it’s distinct in the sense that it observes classical unities. This complete play is entertainment, but under the layers of the fun also lays the deeper themes, which includes the feeling of self identity versus reality, the essence of time, coincidence and love. Because of the confusion, both the Syracusan and Ephesan twins sometimes think they have gone insane which shows the Shakespeare’s keen interest in showing the characters tortuous soul.
The play also highlights the fact that even the lightest farce can create emotional resonance. This play was first published in the first Folio in 1623 and is considered as Shakespeare shortest play. The comedy ends when both sets of twins were reunited. Shakespeare made his play more complex than Plautus by adding second set of twins. The other plays that can be considered nearer to the Comedy of errors in the model are the two gentleman of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew and A Love’s Labor’s lost.
The 1590’s era saw changes in trend in the plays Mid Summers Night Dreams and the Merchant of Venice. These plays were different in tone coming under the category of Middle Comedies and are the proof of the Shakespeare’s genius to experiment with the plays. Mid Summers Night Dreams beautifully presents the bumbling and unconsciously comic townspeople, creating yet another chapter of bringing the common frivolities, vices, situations and circumstances that these townspeople creates for themselves and thus is emerged the amusing scenes.
But these plays not only arouse the comic relief but also create the sympathetic feelings. We can also see what is known as the Mature Comedies in this the most popular The romantic plays Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Twelfth Night. All these plays are considered as joyous comedies with characters always smiling and are sympathetic. Written around 1599 and 1600, these plays were at the peak of the Shakespeare’s career in the field of high comedy with generally having beautiful, intelligent, and strong-minded heroines, as the central characters.
These plays were in sharp contrast to the satire, and reflect Shakespeare’s not only the mastery of his art but also congenial temperament that he shows towards his characters. Soon after mature comedies, Shakespeare produced problem comedies in his three plays—All’s Well That Ends Well, Troilus and Cressida, and Measure for Measure. The problem comedies deals with the complex and unpleasant themes and its characters have certain amount of moral flaws which are more severe and difficult to change than the characters in the farces or the joyous comedies.
Light hearted humor is seen in these plays which are emotionally rich and dramatically exciting and stimulating to the readers. All’s Well That Ends Well, written around 1603 follows the conventional pattern of comedy, and as its title suggests the play ends with the reunion of a separated couple, but this reunion is deeply troubling. Hereby Troilus and Cressida are totally different in the sense that for many days it was unknown whether it was tragedy, history or comedy. The essence of Romanticism showers in the comedy of the Shakespeare’s plays, and the lives hovers over the back ground and atmosphere of Shakespeare.
Shakespearean comedy is primarily the comedy of love. The atmosphere is full of the genial of love and friendship. In his comedy love is a means of human fulfillment, and far from raising the lovers thoughts about basic desires, the romantic inserts the feeling of passion. The romantic comedy has characters ranging from servants, drunkards, constables and clowns. The main characteristic feature of the Shakespeare comedy is the beautiful combination of realism and fancy. The characters are drawn from the world of men and women. They have to suffer like ordinary mortals experiencing adversity, separation and disappointments.
The characters and scenes though are viewed through magic casements which transforms reality, the settings in his plays are generally imaginative- an unknown island, Thebes, Arden, Illyria, and Venice each are conceived in the sparkling light of a beautiful fancy, yet they are all real and sheer from our daily real lives. The contemporary figures and fashions as in Love’s Labor’s Lost; Bottom and his companions mingling with the fairies, this union of realism and fantasy is the cardinal characteristic feature of Shakespeare romantic world. The worldly wisdom and deep comprehension of life made his comedies more realistic.
Under the humor and fun there lies the tone of didacticism with the complex moods and subtlety in the characters. His comedies are also marked by the optimism and are the pictures of life in sunnier aspects. Shakespeare began his journey of comedy where Lyly left, and he was able to find his way to create an intense mood of seriousness in the comedy. It is said that in comedy, Lyly is Shakespeare’s model and its influence is far more permanent than any other. Shakespeare imitates the grouping style of Lyly and consequently repeats the relation or situation in successive plays.
It was from Lyly that Shakespeare learned unity and coherence of plot-construction, basically in the introduction of songs and fairies. (Looney, 1997-2002). And the fine example is “Love and Labor’s lost”. He was also influenced with Greene which led to the creation of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. But the most influence that is created on his works is from Plautus and Terence. Plautus devices used in the plots reads like ten-twenty-thirty thrillers of the nineteenth century: involving abandonment of infants, kidnapping, piracy, shipwreck, tokens of recognition, changes of identity, keyhole listenings and strange rescues.
His world constitutes the characters ranging from scolding matrons, lying and thievish servants, money lenders, procurers and sycophants, all belong to the lower or middle strata of the society but in the end always the knaves are punished and its titles reflects the plot like The Play of the Hidden Pot of Gold, The Haunted House, How the Sham Steward Got Paid for His Asses, and The Play of the Caskets. The same is true with Comedy of Error which is derived from the Plautus’s farcical play Menaechmi (Twins).
In this play Plautus uses laughter to dwell and come out with the human foibles including the mistaken identity. As in Comedy of Errors in Plautus play, only one servant appears and he is traveling with a twin who stays outside their native country. The citizen twin has a shrewd wife, a father-in-law and a mistress named Erotium, and thus all these involves trickery, sex intrigue with the husband’s blatant infidelity.
And this mistaken identity are wrangled a jeweler, a merchant, parasite, a physician and the courtesan. Thus the story and plot of the Shakespeare and Plautus are same but Shakespeare gives very little of farce. There are two distinct patterns in which Shakespeare comedy moves, one from society to wilderness and then back to the better society and the second pattern is from union to wandering and then back to union. (Flachman from midsummer magazine, 2001). The first model emerges in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
This play takes its characters from the urban lands to the green world of forest and then back to the original society whereby they have learned the true way of living from the freedom that they enjoyed in green world of the Forest. In the Midsummer Night Dreams all attained the good fortune only by staying one night in enchanted woods. As opposed to these plays, the other plays like in Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors, and All’s Well That Ends Well, specifically in the comedy of errors the characters first are united, separated and then united.
In, many of the comedies the conclusion is the happy marriage. These patterns help us to read in depth the chapters of our lives and try to solve the problems faced by us in a much comic manner. The Midsummers Night Dreams is different then the Comedy of Errors in the sense that its the Bard’s original wedding play. According to many scholars it is a light entertainment to accompany a marriage celebration; and unlike Comedy of Errors Shakespeare does not rely on existing plays, narrative poetry, historical chronicles or any other source materials, making it an absolutely original piece.
The main plot of the play involves the two set of couples The Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius whose romantic endeavors are complicated due to their entry into the fairyland woods where the King and Queen of the Fairies Oberon and Titania rules and the Puck or Robin Goodfellow, who are the folk characters plies his trade. Thus there is also an element of fantasy in this play which is totally absent in the Comedy of Errors with an exception of twins.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains lyrical expressions of love and dreams, and the creative imagination of both. These two patterns, are born from the plays, the Jorge de Montemayor’s Diana, which is a Spanish pastoral romance who in celebrating the love, moves from society to wilderness and then back to the reformed and much cherished society, and the second posters from the story of “Titus and Gisippus” in Sir Thomas Elyot’s The Governor, and its plot moves uniting the characters and then leave them to wander and again back reuniting them.
Shakespeare was a versatile character and the growth his career lies in its model of versatility which is amply clear in all his plays whether it is tragic, history or comedy, versatility lies in all and he is always experimenting with the words so close to the human heart and that makes the Shakespeare unique.
Flachmann Michael, (2001), The two Comic plots of Verona, From Midsummer Magazine, Utah Shakespearean Festival Home Page, Retrieved on 19th March 2007 from W. W. W: http://www. bard. org/education/resources/shakespeare/twogentscomic. html 2. Looney J Thomas, Shakespeare Identified, Chapter XI, Edward De Vere — Middle Period: Dramatic Foreground, Retrieved on 19th March 2007 from W. W. W: http://www. shakespearefellowship. org/etexts/si/11-5. htm.