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Shakespearean Comedy
     Shakespeare wrote many plays during his lifetime.  Some of his
plays have similar comedic characteristics and  then other plays
are the exact opposite of comedy.  Shakespeare wrote tragedies,
romance, history, comedy and problem plays all with great success. 
During the performance of these plays there was no scenery so great
time was taken when developing the characters and the plot so the
plays would be entertaining.  A Midsummers Night's Dream and Much
Ado About Nothing are just two of the comedies Shakespeare wrote. 
These two plays have many things in common where as Measure for
Measure is a problem play with a totally different tone.  Comparing
and contrasting these three plays will help us to understand what
Shakespeare thought comedy was in the 1600's and to see if our
views on comedy are the same today.
     A Midsummer Night's Dream is a festive comedy.  The play takes
place in June and this is a bewitched time.  In the spring the
custom is to celebrate the return of fertility to the earth. 
During  this time the young people spend the night in the woods to
celebrate.  Shakespeare uses the greenworld pattern in this play. 
The play begins in the city, moves out to the country and then back
to the city.  Being in the country makes things better because
there is tranquility, freedom and people can become uncivilized
versus when they are in the city and have to follow customs and
laws and behave rationally.
     Comedies contain blocking figures and in this play it is
Egeus.  If he was not in the way, Hermia could marry Lysander. 
Since he is causing problems in his daughters life by trying to
make her marry Demetrius, this begins the journey into the woods. 
Egeus threatened Hermia with death if she were to marry Lysander so
she thinks the only way they can be together is to run away. 
     One strange element is why Egeus was so set on Hermia marrying
Demetrius.  Lysander came from as good a family as Demetrius.  Both
were well possessed with property and money so Egeus's power is
made to seem senseless.
     The play moves into the woods which is haunted by fairies who
are there to bless the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta.  The
quarreling between Oberon and Titania over the changeling boy leads
to the king wanting to embarrass Titania with the love juice by
making her fall in love with a monster.  The first person she sees
is Bottom and she falls violently in love with him.
     Oberon is making a spectacle of Titania and Bottom.   It is
ridiculous that she is in love with him because he is from such a
lower class than her, he is human and she is a fairy, and he has
the head of an ass.  She is also a queen and he is an uneducated
working man and a match like this would never happen.  Bottom has
such a problem with language.  He speaks in malapropisms.  He tries
to say one word but always comes up with the wrong one.  He is a
working man who tries to act more educated that he really is . 
Through Bottom and Titania we see that love is blind.  Also, while
Titania is under the influence of the love juice she releases the
changeling boy to Oberon so he did accomplish his goal.
     The confusion between Lysander, Hermia, Helena, and Demetrius
because of the love juice is full of funny occurrences.  When
Lysander wakes up and thinks he is in love with Helena, Hermia is
ignored and treated badly by Lysander.  Then not only was Lysander
saying he loved Helena, Demetrius was also treating Hermia badly. 
This left poor Hermia so upset but we as the audience know this is
a prank and soon the spell will be lifted.
     The main characters in the play are all developed to a point
where the audience can identify with them.  We learn things about
them individually so we can feel happy or sad when things happen in
their life.  I felt sad for Hermia when she was jolted by Lysander
because their love for each other had seemed so strong and she was
so confused by his behavior.  Even though the audience knows the
truth it is easy to feel sad for her.
     As the play nears the end, Oberon lifts the spell and everyone
seems to believe they have had a rare vision and then their lives
go on just as if none of this had happened.
     The play brings closure to the reader by having the
traditional ending of a comedy.  They usually end in weddings and
a feast which is exactly what happens in A Midsummer Night's Dream. 
Lysander and Hermia, Helena and Demetrius, and Theseus and
Hippolyta all get married which signifies a new beginning.  The
working men end the play with a Bergomask dance and the fairies
join in the dance and bless the marriages.
     A Midsummer Night's Dream contains many elements of a comedy. 
The most important ones to me are that the play ends happily, it is
funny and it made me laugh.
     Shakespeare wrote Much Ado About Nothing which is also a
comedy, but it is a different type of comedy than A Midsummer
Night's Dream.  Although these two plays share some common
elements, they also have differences.
     Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy of intrigue.  It involves
suspense, question and has a detective story element.  Within the
comedy of intrigue, there is social comedy involving Beatrice and
Benedick.  Through this couple and Claudio and Hero, the play
explores the was people interact with each other.
     Shakespeare shows that love can be very logical but also very
passionate.  Claudio and Hero have a love that is soft, delicate
and logical.  Beatrice and Benedick on the other hand, are very
passionately in love with each other and show this by quarreling
     Claudio's obsession with Hero is from a distance.  He worships
her and is astonished with her beauty.  His love for her is very
shallow because he does not know her as a person.  Claudio is being
logical about marriage by inquiring about Hero's financial state
and social standing.  After finding out she is an only child, he
agrees to let Don Pedro woo Hero in his favor so she would be his
     When Claudio and Don Pedro put their plan into action at the
masked ball, Don John appears.  He acts as a blocking figure in
this play and causes many problems.  He tells Claudio that Don
Pedro wants Hero for himself, which is a lie, but Claudio acts like
"easy come easy go".  He is not very upset that he just lost his
soon to be bride.  When the truth comes out, the wedding day is set
and the planning begins.  Don John is once again planning to ruin
things.  He is a jealous, sour and unhappy person.  The greenworld
is also used in this play but not for festive activities.  It is
used for plotting bad things that will hurt people.
     After Claudio is led to believe Hero was cheating on him, he
becomes malicious and wants revenge.  Claudio disgraces Hero at the
wedding.  He refuses to marry her in front of all the guests and
accuses her of already having sex with someone else.
     This serious act of revenge causes the audience to feel sorry
for not only Hero, but her family as well because we know that was
not her kissing Borachio.  The audience may have felt worse for
Hero if her character had been more fully developed but she hardly
ever spoke even when agreeing to marry Claudio.  We can feel sorry
for her but not really identify with her because we do not know her
very well.  Hero is made a spectacle of for no truthful reason and
disgraces her family.
     After Hero faints at the wedding, Beatrice is furious.  She
wants revenge against Claudio.  Finally she and Benedick declare
their love for each other which was made possible by being under
tension and emotional stress and she was finally able to let down
her guard.  She feels out of control because she needs a man to
kill Claudio.  She is usually able to take care of things herself
but not this time.  Thankfully Benedick will not kill Claudio and
the truth comes out because of Dogberry and Verges.
     When the night watchmen overhear Borachio talking about the
scheme Dogberry and Verges bring him and his comrade to their
superior.  It is funny this watchmen could catch anyone doing
anything wrong.  The watchmen are like Bottom and are comical. 
They have the same problem as Bottom and have great difficulty
     After the truth is out that Claudio was fooled into thinking
that Hero was cheating on him, he is full of grief because he
believes Hero is dead.  He agrees to marry Leonato's niece, who is
supposed to look just like Hero, to make up his terrible mistake to
he family.  After he marries the masked bride, he is happy to see
it is Hero.  This certainly is a marriage of convenience.  He did
not know Hero anyway so it would not have mattered if he knew the
bride to be.  In a sense, Hero was resurrected from the dead and
Claudio ends up being a very lucky guy.
     Most of the characters are fully developed, except Hero, so we
can identify with their grief and then their joy.  As the play
comes to an end everything is wrapped in a neat package.  Don John
is captured and brought back to be punished, Claudio and Hero, and
Beatrice and Benedick are married and the dance and the feast
     Measure for Measure is a play that is very different from A
Midsummer Night's Dream.  The comedy in this play is very raw.  The
atmosphere of the two plays are different but they both deal with
the same issue of sexuality.
     After the Duke has left the city in Angelo's hands, he wants
to show his power by condemning Claudio to death because he got
Juliet pregnant.  Angelo is not being reasonable because he has let
the power go to his head.  Angelo has also had sex out of wedlock,
he just did not get Mariana pregnant.  In this play sex is
portrayed as much more dangerous than it has been in the other two
     After Claudio is jailed, he makes a plea to his sister,
Isabella , to help him obtain a pardon for his offense.  Isabella
had not yet taken her vows to become a nun so she agrees to help
him.  Isabella and Angelo are parallel characters.  Both live with
great restraint.
     After Isabella pleads with Angelo to pardon her brother, he
comes up with the idea of an exchange for Claudio's freedom.  He
wants Isabella to sleep with him so he could have her virginity and
then he would pardon Claudio.
     Angelo is a very cold person with no feelings and has
restrained himself tremendously throughout his life.  He has a
problem with women and he is tempted more by a virtuous woman than
a frivolous one.  In a soliloquy, he talks to himself and tries to
understand his lust for Isabella.  He has a violent image of sex
with her because he wants to destroy her virtue.
     Angelo is very cruel.  He is going to torture and kill Claudio
and he is getting pleasure by controlling Isabella.  this play is
dealing with power and who has the most.
     After the Duke, disguised as the Friar, over hears Isabella
telling Claudio she will not sleep with Angelo, he comes up with a
plan.  Isabella would agree to meet Angelo at midnight and they
would send Mariana instead because the two of them were supposed to
have been married before but her dowry was lost at sea and Angelo
had backed out on the marriage.
     The plan works but Angelo goes back on his word and orders
Claudio's head delivered to him at once.  The Friar helps keep
Claudio in hiding so everyone would think he was dead.  The Friar
then returns as the Duke and Angelo's world begins to unravel.  He
is publicly exposed so everyone will know what king of a person he
is.  He has been tricked into marriage and is now a very miserable
person.  Although he had the ultimate power for a brief time, 
heabused it and now has to suffer the consequences for a lifetime.
     After Claudio is produces and allowed to marry Juliet, the
Duke asks for Isabella's hand in marriage.
     The satire in this play looks at the two extremes and the
audience tries to believe something in the middle.  The language
used in this play is crude when they are discussing sex.  The men
in the city talk about sex in a nasty ways discussing how many
diseases they have gotten from the hoars.  Sex is portrayed as a
vile and nasty thing.
     Measure for Measure is visually unlike other plays.  There is
insistence on laws that are very extreme.  People are being
measured in judgement.  It shows that you should be reasonable and
weigh things out before actions are taken.
     These three plays all have different messages which are told
in various ways.  As a writer, Shakespeare was so talented he could
write different types of stories with such grace.  These three
plays are just a few examples of the different extremes he was
capable of.  Writing and defining comedy can be very difficult. 
Many elements of comedy are in his plays and this makes they very
enjoyable reading.  Comedy helps me to identify with stories since
I like happy endings much better than tragic endings.  After
finishing a book, I like to have a feeling of closure and in these
comedies my need is fulfilled.

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