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Shakespeare's Festive ComedyA Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom$
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Cesar Lombardi Barber

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691149523

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691149523.001.0001

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Misrule as Comedy; Comedy as Misrule

Misrule as Comedy; Comedy as Misrule

(p.39) Three Misrule as Comedy; Comedy as Misrule
Shakespeare's Festive Comedy

C. L. Barber

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers the tendency for Elizabethan comedy to be a saturnalia, rather than to represent saturnalian experience. In Elizabethan England, a direct development of comedy out of festivity was prevented by the existence of an already developed dramatic literature—and by the whole moral superstructure of Elizabethan society. When the issue was put to the test, license for festive abuse was never granted by Elizabethan officials. The tendency examined in this chapter bears witness to the saturnalian impulse which did find expression in dramatic fiction. Saturnalia could come into its own in the theater by virtue of the distinction between the stage and the world which Puritans were unwilling to make in London but which fortunately prevailed across the river on the Bankside.

Keywords:   Elizabethan comedy, saturnalia, comedy, May Game, Elizabethan England, saturnalian impulse, festivity, Elizabethan society

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