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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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The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth’s Communion and an Intruder

The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth’s Communion and an Intruder

(p.185) Seven The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth’s Communion and an Intruder
Shakespeare's Festive Comedy

C. L. Barber

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. This play as a whole is not shaped by festivity in the relatively direct way as in Love's Labour's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The play's large structure is developed from traditions which are properly theatrical; it is not a theatrical adaptation of a social ritual. And yet analogies to social occasions and rituals prove to be useful in understanding the symbolic action. The chapter pursues such analogies without suggesting, in most cases, that there is a direct influence from the social to the theatrical form. Shakespeare here is working with autonomous mastery, developing a style of comedy that makes a festive form for feeling and awareness out of all the theatrical elements, scene, speech, story, gesture, role which his astonishing art brought into organic combination.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, plays, rituals, social occasions, comedy

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