Shakespearean Comedies: Comparisions and Contrasts

Shakespearean Comedies:
Comparisons and Contrasts
Shakespeares comedies, Twelfth Night,
The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Nights Dream all juxtapose two
different worlds that are often in conflict.

Their plots centered around the protagonists efforts to move from one
world to the other and to survive in the new world of his or her choice.

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example, Shakespeares A Midsummer
Nights Dream is a play that encompasses three worlds: the romantic world
of the aristocratic lovers, where romance is valued; the work day world of the
rude mechanicals, who value work; and the fairy world of Titania and
Oberon. It is of interest to note that
while all three worlds tangle and intertwine during the course of the play, it
is the fairy world that has the greatest impact, for both the lovers and the
mechanicals are changed forever by their contact with the children and the
values of Pan.

The plot
of A Midsummer Nights Dream revolves
around the consequences of a law in the city of Athens which gave to its
citizens the power of compelling their daughters to marry whomsoever they
pleased; for upon a daughters refusing to marry the man her father had chosen
to be her husband, the father was empowered by this law to cause her to be put
to death. Of course fathers do not
often desire the death of their own daughters, even though they do happen at
times to be a little rebellious, this law was seldom or never put in execution.

was one instance however of an old man, whose name was Egeus, who actually did
complain that his daughter Hermia refused to marry Demetrius, a young man of a
noble Athenian family whom he had chosen for her, because she loved another
young Athenian named Lysander. Egeus valued obedience in his children and
demanded justice of Theseus, and insisted that this cruel but in his eyes
necessary law might be put in force against his daughter Hermia, who he wanted
to punish for rebelling against him and rejecting his values. (Shakespeare)
Lysander proposes to Hermia that she should steal out of her fathers house
that night and go with him to his aunts house, where he would marry her. So they enter this new world and meet with
misfortune right away because Puck mistakenly puts a spell on Lysander and he falls
in love with Helena. But everything is
sorted out and all ends happily.

In Twelfth Night a damaging tempest
shipwrecks the heroine Viola, casts her upon a foreign shore, and separates her
from her beloved brother, who she thinks must be dead. Upon arrival in this strange seaport Viola
dons a male disguise, for she can only make her way in this alien land if she
assumes the trappings and privileges of masculinity. Her doublet and hose act as her passport and provide her with a
livelihood, a love interest, and friendship.

Without the disguise the inhabitants would not accept her, for they did
not treat newcomers well, especially women.

should be noted that Illyria is no brave new world rigidly controlled by a
seemingly omnipotent wizard, nor is it characterized by symmetry and
restraint. It is a place where reason
is absent and where the most sane individual is the professional jester,
Feste. It is a world turned upside
down, where customary practices are subverted, rebelled against, or relaxed,
and misrule is valued.

these challenges, in a few days time Viola, through her wit, charm, loyalty
and musical ability, successfully establishes herself in this world and wins
the trust of the Duke, who employs her to woo Olivia. In her loyalty to the Duke, even though she is deeply in love
with him, she makes an honest attempt to win Olivias love, but ultimately
achieves happiness in the Dukes world and marries him.

In terms
of appearance versus reality, it is significant that although the characters in
Shakespeares plays use disguises for different purposes, disguise always
imparts the theme of appearance versus reality, especially in Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Nights Dream, and The Taming of the Shrew. For example, in Twelfth Night Olivias readiness to fall in love with appearances
is a lesson about love and demonstrates that disguise sometimes reveals more
than candor.

Shakespeares The Taming of the
Shrew revolves around a gentleman named Baptista, who had two fair
daughters. The eldest, Katharine, was
so very cross, ill-tempered, and unmannerly that no one ever dreamed of
marrying her. In contrast, her sister
Bianca was so sweet, pretty, and pleasant-spoken that more than one suitor
asked her father for her hand.

Baptista, despite the fact that his eldest daughter was so rebellious and
strong-willed, insisted that she must marry first. This had the affect of rewarding disobedience and punishing
obedience, for the pleasant daughter could not be happily married until the
shrewish daughter was happily married.

To solve
their dilemma Biancas suitors decided among themselves to try and get some one
to marry Katharine so her father might at least be willing to listen to their
suit for Bianca. A gentleman from
Verona named Petruchio was the one they thought of, and half in jest they asked
him if he would marry Katharine, the disagreeable scold. Much to their surprise he agreed to the
proposition, said that she was just the sort of wife for him, and if Katharine
were handsome and rich, he himself would undertake soon to make her
Petruchio is coldly rejected by Katharine when he tries to enter her
world, but whether she fell in love with Petruchio, or whether she was only
glad to meet a man who was not afraid of her, or whether she was flattered
that, in spite of her rough words and spiteful usage, he still desired her for
his wife, she in fact does marry him, which is when his real challenge must be
faced, for he must tame her.
Katharine enters a new worldas Petruchios wifeand her new husbands manner
was so violent, and he behaved all through his wedding in so mad and dreadful a
manner, that Katharine trembled and went with him. He mounted her on a
stumbling, lean, old horse, and they journeyed by rough muddy ways to
Petruchios house as he scolded and snarled at her all the way. (Shakespeare)
She was
terribly tired when she reached her new home, but Petruchio was determined that
she should neither eat nor sleep that night, for he had made up his mind to
teach his bad-tempered wife a lesson she would never forget, and proceeded to
do so, with favorable results.

The Taming of the Shrew also offers a
good example of the theme of appearance versus reality for there are many
discrepancies between what seems to be and what is.
For example, at the very beginning when Christofero
Sly falls asleep falls asleep he is tricked into believing he is lord of the
manor. As he starts to believe the
trickery, he begins to change and becomes like that which he is supposed to
be. At the moment of his realization he
even begins to speak in verse, a reflection that, at least in his mind, he has
actually become a nobleman.

In the
main part of The Taming of the Shrew
there are two main story lines, the wooing of a daughter of Baptista and the
taming of her sister. Both involve
suitors who disguise themselves as what they are not and both involve women who
are not what they seem on the surface.
The men
in The Taming of the Shrew value
obedience in their wives, and ultimately, Petruchio wins the wager he proposed
to prove who had the most obedient wife, gains a loving wife in Katharine, and
when he had broken her proud and angry spirit he loved her well. So they both achieved happiness in their new
conclusion, William Shakespeares plays Twelfth
Night, The Taming of the Shrew, and A
Midsummer Nights Dream all juxtapose two different worlds that are often
in conflict. Their plots center around
the protagonists efforts to move from one world to the other and to survive in
the new and challenging world of his or her choice. In The Taming of the Shrew
Petruchio and Katharine win happiness in their new world of marriage, as do the
Duke and Viola and Twelfth Night, and
Lysander and Hermia in A Midsummer
Nights Dream.

Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992.

_ _
_. A
Midsummer Nights Dream. New York:
Washington Square Press, 1993.

_ _
_. Twelfth
Night. New York: Washington Square
Press, 1993.


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