Shakespeare, W - Much Ado About Nothing (Arden, 2006).pdf

L this is an essentially medieval which is to say a

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l This is an essentially medieval, which is to say a Christian, apprehension of the function of comedy's providential conversions of trouble into joy (such that comic harmonies model and prefigure an eternal felicity). Classical models were also pertinent to Shakespeare's comic process; their plots presented the manoeuvrings of a young man towards a young woman, and the confrontation between the erotic ambitions of youth and social obstacles thereto (usually fathers, or discrepancies in social rank, or both - or, as Lysander puts it, 'difference] in blood / . . . misgraffed in respect of years /. . . Or else it stood upon the choice of friends / . . . Or . . . / War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it', MND 1.1.135^42). But even this formula, as Frye pointed out, includes a relationship to tragedy: Even in New Comedy the dramatist tries to bring his action as close to a tragic overthrow of the hero as he can get it, and reverses this movement as suddenly as possible . . . Thus the resolution of New Comedy seems to be a realistic foreshortening of the death-and-resurrection pattern, in which the struggle and rebirth of a divine hero has shrunk into a marriage, the freeing of a slave, and the triumph of a young man over an older one. (Frye, 169) Shakespeare's modifications of this model are many (for example, the questing hero of classical comedy is more often a hardwork- ing heroine in boy's clothing, so that gender identity rather than social rank must be corrected). It has also been argued that Shakespearean comedy is equally indebted to native folkloric 1 The majority of Renaissance definitions of comedy were satiric or homiletic, e.g. Philip Sidney: 'Comédie is an imitation of the common errors of our life, which [the poet] representeth in the most ridiculous and scornful sort that may be; so that it is impossible that any beholder can be content to be such a one' (although Sidney also considers comedy a source of delight) (Sidney, Defence, 44); George Puttenham: '[comedies] tended altogither to the good amendment of man by discipline and example' (Puttenham, 47); or Thomas Lodge: 'their matter was more plessant [than tragedies] for they were such as did reprehend' (Lodge, 37). 52
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Introduction rituals of social regeneration, although Much Ado is in a minor- ity among his comedies in its lack of even a metaphorical green world (a world that the 1993 Kenneth Branagh film did, however, provide). Messina is resolutely its sociable self - although the inversions of gulling, masquerade, slander and false death, and the hallucinatory social universe created by the resolutely social prac- tices of eavesdropping and rumour could be argued to produce a climate akin to that of the forests of Arden and Athens. 1 However, Shakespeare's greatest elaboration upon his comic models lies in his transformations of the blocking mechanism, and Much Ado occupies a pivotal role in its evolution.
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