Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom [New in Paper]

Overview

In this classic work, acclaimed Shakespeare critic C. L. Barber argues that Elizabethan seasonal festivals such as May Day and Twelfth Night are the key to understanding Shakespeare's comedies. Brilliantly interweaving anthropology, social history, and literary criticism, Barber traces the inward journey--psychological, bodily, spiritual--of the comedies: from confusion, raucous laughter, aching desire, and aggression, to harmony. Revealing the interplay between social custom and dramatic form, the book shows how...

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Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom

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Overview

In this classic work, acclaimed Shakespeare critic C. L. Barber argues that Elizabethan seasonal festivals such as May Day and Twelfth Night are the key to understanding Shakespeare's comedies. Brilliantly interweaving anthropology, social history, and literary criticism, Barber traces the inward journey--psychological, bodily, spiritual--of the comedies: from confusion, raucous laughter, aching desire, and aggression, to harmony. Revealing the interplay between social custom and dramatic form, the book shows how the Elizabethan antithesis between everyday and holiday comes to life in the comedies' combination of seriousness and levity.

"I have been led into an exploration of the way the social form of Elizabethan holidays contributed to the dramatic form of festive comedy. To relate this drama to holiday has proved to be the most effective way to describe its character. And this historical interplay between social and artistic form has an interest of its own: we can see here, with more clarity of outline and detail than is usually possible, how art develops underlying configurations in the social life of a culture."--C. L. Barber, in the Introduction

This new edition includes a foreword by Stephen Greenblatt, who discusses Barber's influence on later scholars and the recent critical disagreements that Barber has inspired, showing that Shakespeare's Festive Comedy is as vital today as when it was originally published.

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Editorial Reviews

Modern Philology
Well-considered, subtly thought-out commentaries that move easily between structural analysis of the larger actions and sensitive dissection of local textures . . . a first-rate work of impressive imagination.
From the Publisher

Winner of the 1961 George Jean Nathan Award for Drama Criticism

"Well-considered, subtly thought-out commentaries that move easily between structural analysis of the larger actions and sensitive dissection of local textures . . . a first-rate work of impressive imagination."--Modern Philology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691149523
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/21/2011
  • Edition description: New in Paper
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 248,445
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


C. L. Barber was a fellow of the Folger Shakespeare Library and a world-renowned Shakespeare scholar. His books include "The Whole Journey: Shakespeare's Power of Development" and "Creating Elizabethan Tragedy: The Theater of Marlowe and Kyd."
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Table of Contents

Foreword stephen greenblatt xi
Preface xvii

Chapter One: Introduction: The Saturnalian Pattern 1
Through Release to Clarification 5
Shakespeare's Route to Festive Comedy 10
Chapter Two: holiday custom and entertainment 16
The May Game 19
The Lord of Misrule 25
Aristocratic Entertainments 32

Chapter Three: Misrule as Comedy; Comedy as Misrule 39
License and Lese Majesty in Lincolnshire 40
The May Game of Martin Marprelate 56

Chapter Four: Prototypes of Festive Comedy in a Pageant Entertainment: Summer's Last Will and Testament 64
"What can be made of Summer's last will and testament?" 64
Presenting the Mirth of the Occasion 68
Praise of Folly: Bacchus and Falstaff 75
Festive Abuse 82
"Go not yet away, bright soul of the sad year" 90

Chapter Five: The Folly of Wit and Masquerade in Love's Labour's Lost 98
"lose our oaths to find ourselves" 100
"sport by sport o'erthrown" 105
"a great feast of languages" 107
Wit 112
Putting Witty Folly in Its Place 116
"When . . . Then . . ."--The Seasonal Songs 128

Chapter Six: May Games and Metamorphoses on a Midsummer Night 135
The Fond Pageant 141
Bringing in Summer to the Bridal 149
Magic as Imagination: The Ironic Wit 159
Moonlight and Moonshine: The Ironic Burlesque 168
The Sense of Reality 179

Chapter Seven: The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth's Communion and an Intruder 185
Making Distinctions about the Use of Riches 188
Transcending Reckoning at Belmont 197
Comical/Menacing Mechanism in Shylock 201
The Community Setting Aside Its Machinery 209
Sharing in the Grace of Life 212

Chapter Eight: Rule and Misrule in henry iv 219
Mingling Kings and Clowns 223
Getting Rid of Bad Luck by Comedy 234
The Trial of Carnival in Part Two 243
Chapter Nine: The Alliance of Seriousness and Levity in A You Like It 252
The Liberty of Arden 254
Counterstatements 257
"all nature in love mortal in folly" 260

Chapter Ten: Testing Courtesy and Humanity in Twelfth Night 272
"A most extracting frenzy" 275
"You are betroth'd both to a maid and man" 277
Liberty Testing Courtesy 281
Outside the Garden Gate 292

Index 297

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