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

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"Shakespeare's Festive Comedy is the best book on the subject that I know. The book is well and clearly written, and I should think would fascinate the general readers. I think it is indispensable for students of Shakespeare's comedy."—Francis Fergusson

"I can think of no other book that has had such a powerful influence on the ways in which Shakespeare has been taught over the past thirty years. Shakespeare's Festive Comedy was a book ahead of its time. Barber revolutionized ...

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

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Overview

"Shakespeare's Festive Comedy is the best book on the subject that I know. The book is well and clearly written, and I should think would fascinate the general readers. I think it is indispensable for students of Shakespeare's comedy."—Francis Fergusson

"I can think of no other book that has had such a powerful influence on the ways in which Shakespeare has been taught over the past thirty years. Shakespeare's Festive Comedy was a book ahead of its time. Barber revolutionized the ways that Shakespeareans thought of comedy in relation to its social setting—especially festive comedy. Others have built on his argument but nobody has really improved on his keen, central insight."—James Shapiro, Columbia University

"C. L. Barber is the most compelling of the anthropological critics and his book, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy, is to my mind far and away the most illuminating yet to appear on its subject. He is compelling for many reasons—a mind both intricate and deft, a sensitivity quick to the accommodation of esthetic form to the intricacies of psychological function, a humanity benignly tolerant and inclusive. . . . The especial merit of Barber's criticism lies in its sensitive exploration of the individual working out of the release-clarification formula in five separate plays. Each, he discovers, 'tends to focus on a particular kind of folly that is released along with love—witty masquerade in Love's Labour's Lost, delusive fantasy in A Midsummer Night's Dream, romance in As You Like It, and in The Merchant of Venice, prodigality balanced against usuary.' Twelfth Night, to complete the list, focuses on misrule and its complementary folly of time-serving."—Arthur M. Eastman, in A Short History of Shakespearean Criticism

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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
  • 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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