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By Patrick Swinden (auth.)

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Additional resources for An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Comedies

Sample text

The best description I have come across is the one made by John Dixon Hunt in his essay, 'Grace, Art and the Neglect of Time in Love's Labour's Lost'. He takes the view that what the lords acquire through their disclosure to themselves of their love for the French ladies is 'grace', in the sense Longaville intends in his sonnet to Maria: My vow was earthly, thou a heavenly love; Thy grace being gain'd cures all disgrace in me. Berowne uses the word in his address to the ladies at v, ii: We to ourselves prove false, By being once false forever to be true To those that make us both- fair ladies, you; And even that falsehood, in itself a sin, Thus purifies itself and turns to grace.

It is farce. The Comedy of Errors is, technically, a farce in so far as characters in it do not so much relate as collide with one another. Transactions between them are frequently physical. They have the effect of setting and keeping in motion a progressively complicating and potentially violent plot. Typical props are a rope, a chain and a barred door. Servmts are repeatedly beaten, the doctor is cuffed and his beard singed, and one of the protagonists is arrested, bound, and thrown into 'a dark and devilish vault'.

The form of dramatised medley, with incorporated pageants and displays, fulfils two main requirements of the time. It makes the audience willing to respond to the events as an intimate group, allowing Shakespeare to count on their sympathy - and, incidentally, their sharing his gentle critique of manners and types of artifice. This sympathy broadens outwards from a shared response to people and their conduct, to a rapport with the 'atmosphere' they combine to produce. One senses this even in the setting of the play.

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