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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Puck and Comedy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1101  Sunday, 8 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Nov 1998 08:35:57 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1098  Re: Puck and MND

[2]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 06 Nov 1998 14:47:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1092  Re: Puck and MND

[3]     From:   Skip Nicholson <
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        Date:   Friday, 06 Nov 1998 18:50:43 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1098 Re: Puck and MND


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Nov 1998 08:35:57 EST
Subject: 9.1098  Re: Puck and MND
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1098  Re: Puck and MND

>  > Puck could be Jim Carrey, Al Pacino, Chris Rock, or even Danny DeVito,
>
>  I'm sorry, but this scares the life out of me.

I missed this thread, but looking at that contemporary list . . . Puck
could also be Jimmy Cagney ("Oberon, you dirty rat . . ."), though he
(puckishly) made a better Bottom.

Carol Barton
Department of English
Averett College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 06 Nov 1998 14:47:10 -0500
Subject: 9.1092  Re: Puck and MND
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1092  Re: Puck and MND

> The term comedy, as applied to this play (or any other by WS) is a weak
> label, applied only by those scholars who insist on labeling
> everything.  The only true definition of comedy in Shakespeare is a play
> in which nobody dies.  While we are all aware of the similarities and
> differences among all of his plays, the traits commonly intermingle.
> Tragedy seems to be a more easily defined genre, but Shakespeare's
> comedy often comes too close to tragedy for me to be satisfied with the
> label.

I was hoping to stay off the list for a week or so, but can't resist
this one.  People do die in Shakespeare comedies-the King of France in
*LLL*, Ragozine in *MM*, Hector in *Tro*, Cloten in *Cym*, Antigonus in
*WT*.  Much more interesting are the non-deaths: Egeus in *Err*,
Shylock, Claudio or Benedick and especially Hero in *Ado*, Oliver,
Viola/Cesario or Sir Andrew, Claudio in *MM*, Innogen, Hermione.  The
operational definitions suggested by Susan Snyder two decades ago seem
to be to have much more than merely Linnaean usefulness.  Comedies are
plays in which in important ways causality is relaxed: people get second
chances.  Tragedies are plays in which it operates with relentless
rigor: second chances are denied or snatched away.  Benedick challenges
Claudio, but Hero's exoneration (and subsequent resurrection) gives them
a second chance and short-circuits the duel.  Benedick gets a second
chance with Beatrice, and vice versa.  Don John has already received his
second chance, and his refusal to take it could easily be developed
toward tragedy.  In *Rom* (Snyder's take-off point), however, Romeo's
efforts to bridge the Capulet-Montague gap cannot deflect Mercutio and
Tybalt, and the former's death locks everybody else into a tragic mode.
Tragedies edge toward comedy when second chances are offered; Edmund
tries to turn *Lr* into a comedy-"Some good I mean to do"-but the shaft
has already been loosed and cannot be recalled.  Comedies edge toward
tragedy when second chances are offered and refused-Shylock, Malvolio,
Antonio and Sebastian in *Tem*.  *Jn* seems to me more fully tragic than
*R3* because of what happens to Arthur.  The dynamics of these plays are
complex, and it is indeed the case that the labels as labels are crude
and sometimes (*Tro*) even confusing.  But that does not mean they are
meaningless.

Tragically-comically-historically,
David Evett

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Nicholson <
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Date:           Friday, 06 Nov 1998 18:50:43 -0800
Subject: 9.1098 Re: Puck and MND
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1098 Re: Puck and MND

Re: definitions of comedy

I was taught that comedies end in a marriage-or an imminent marriage-
and so assure the continuation of the race. Tragedies end with the
truncation of a family line (Hamlet, Juliet and her beau, Laertes,
Ophelia, Cordelia and the rest are only children or die with their
siblings; those already married die childless-Macbeth, Othello,
Cleopatra...) and imply a lessening of humanity.

Cheers,
Skip Nicholson
South Pasadena (CA) HS
 

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