In this essay essay I will look at two of Shakespeare's comedies and ascertain if they are different types of comedy, the plays I will look at are As You Like It and Taming of the Shrew.
To begin with I believe it is important to clarify what I mean by comedy and then see if both plays conform to the conventions of a Shakespearean comedy.
In Shakespearean comedies there is generally a few principles which are similar and appear in most of his comedies for example the following all tend to be the bearings of a comedy: a struggle of young lovers to overcome difficulty, the difficulty usually being presented by the elders in the play, a witty servant, mistaken identity/deception , multiple intertwining plots, a pastoral element and last of all they usually finish with a happy ending1. Hence it could be seen as ritual comedy, however I do not think that all the conventions are mutually exclusive, as what classes as comedy is quite a broad range of ideas. Many different critics define comedy differently, Samuel Johnson in his 1755 Dictionary defines comedy as “a dramatick representation of the lighter faults of mankind” and Sir Philip Sidney in An Apologie for Poetrie (1595) claims that “delightful teaching is the aim of comedy” this also fits in with the idea that comedy is a moralising form it teaches us morals. C.L Barber related comedy to to pre-modern community festive rituals2 which fits in with Thomas Hobbes definition of laughter as an expression of superiority, a feeling of sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves by comparison with infirmity of others, by experiencing the the humiliation of being laughed at , so the idea goes is that the victim is led to recognise his or her social deviance and rejoins the community reformed3. I will look at the above in relation to As You Like It and Taming of the Shrew.
As You Like It is a light-hearted comedy which belongs to the literary tradition known as pastoral. A pastoral play is one which typically has its roots in the literature of Ancient Greece, and involves exiles from court life who flee to the refuge of the countryside4. This is obviously very clear in As You Like It as the majority of characters flee to the Forest of Arden, and generally a place like the forest or the countryside perhaps is a place where courtship takes place as it is so far removed from the norm of society. This in turn allows us to view the relationships which blossom in the forest with an almost surreal outlook, the norm is suspended and we can forgive Celia and Oliver and Rosalind and Orlando for falling in love as quickly as they do. Love seems to come to fruition in the forest setting and it is saturated with romantic and brotherly love i.e. Orlando and Oliver and The two Dukes. Also Silvius, Corin and Phoebe all give speeches which praise the country life. However on the other hand even though Shakespeare is following the pastoral tradition he still plays with...