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Video:Shakespeare: Comedies

with Milo De Prieto

Shakespearean comedies tend to be lighthearted, whimsical, and emphasize an idealized rural life. Learn about more characteristics of Shakespeare's comedies in this how-to video from About.com.See Transcript

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Transcript:Shakespeare: Comedies

Hello, I'm Milo for About dot com, and today we are talking about Shakespeare's comedies. 

Shakespeare's Plays

Shakespeare's plays have been classified into three categories, tragedies, comedies and histories. These categories were not created by Shakespeare and they is used a rough guide to study his work. Many times, however, a play can exhibit traits from more than one of these categories. Let's take a look at some of the traits present in Shakespeare's comedies keeping in mind that the definition of comedy was very different in Elizabethan times than now.

Characteristics of a Shakespearean Comedy

A Shakespearean comedy, unlike a tragedy, will always have a happy ending, usually ending in marriage. The tone of the play itself tends to be light hearted while the plot itself is complex with multiple ins and outs knotted together. A love theme is often present and many times addresses the struggle of young lovers to overcome a difficult situation or to be reunited.  

Typically the community is threatened by this coupling and may try to stop it. In his comedies Shakespeare emphasized the settings and the situations more than the characters, nature playing an important role.

There seems to be a sense of idealized rural life. Keeping the emphasis on the settings and the events and drawing attention away from the characters was a way to keep the  audience from identifying too much with the characters and being able to laugh at their misfortune. 

In many instances there are disputes between family members and in the dialogues there is often abundant use of insults and other types of word play.

 

Examples of a Shakespearean Comedy

Let's look at two plays and comment why they have been put in the comedy category of Shakespearean plays. Midsummer's Night Dream features 3 intertwining plots that are connected by a wedding celebration. Nature is important here and exemplifies not only the wild but the wild nature of the psyche. It is the setting for many of the most important scenes. Also there is a wedding at the end of the of the story. 

The Tempest: set on a remote island, includes fantasy and magic as well as conflict between siblings and there is a wedding at the end of the story. In both cases the community seems set against the coupling. There are also misunderstandings of motives, hidden identities, a of kind retribution, and forgiveness. But in the end the community is reunited and strengthened via the experience. This is one of the key differences between Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies. 

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