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Download The Cambridge Companion To Shakespearean Comedy Cambridge Companions To Literature 2002
Available in shop from just two hours, subject to availability. His hair was thick and heavy, probably curled and perfumed. He probably wore a mask with heavy stylized features a beetling brow and open mouth. Accompanied by a flattering parasite, the soldier typically boasts of his military and amatory prowess but comes at last to some sort of exposure.
Pyrgopolynices, for example, suffers a humiliating stripping and beating. Thraso mounts an attack on a courtesans house but stations himself safely away from the action. The braggart soldier miles gloriosus experienced many transformations in European theatres. The Italians often cast him as a Spaniard, usually a beggar, and added conventional situations like the mock duel, wherein the soldier makes excuses to avoid a fight. In the English interlude Thersites the titular character ceremoniously arms himself for combat with a snail and gets beaten by a real soldier, Miles.
The swaggering Ralph Roister Doister, in the play of the same name , unsuccessfully besieges his love, Dame Custance. John Lylys mythological Endymion features in a subplot Sir Thopas, who wants to triumph over sheep, wrens, and fish, and who woos two crones, Dipsas and Bagoa. An early comedy of Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour features Bobadilla, who affects great experience in combat and great skill in the new science of fencing.
Bragging, Bobadilla vows to beat the choleric Giuliano, who suddenly appears on stage and cudgels the cowardly soldier. Jonson here portrays the ancient character type as a humor, a ruling folly of self-love that requires comic exposure. The name evokes the Armada, the formidable Spanish fleet that sailed against England in , only to be dispersed by a storm. Like his classical prototypes, Armado swaggers throughout the action, here rounding out the gallery of fools that includes the pedant Holofernes and the four academic Lords of Navarre.
But Armado can acquire a surprising dignity at the end of the play, when he excuses himself before the jeering nobles and resolves to make amends for his wrong-doing, the impregnation of Jaquenetta: For mine own part, I breathe free breath. I have seen the day of wrong through the little hole of discretion, and I will right myself like a soldier 5. He dedicates himself to the humble, hard work of farming, vowing to hold the plough for Jaquenettas love for three years , and introduces the dialogue between Spring and Winter that closes the play.
Parolles, whose name appropriately means words, boasts of past exploits, like the wounding of one Captain Spurio 2. Like Bobadilla, he threatens terrible reprisals just before he confronts his suddenly appearing adversary, Lafew, who administers a tongue-lashing.
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Uncowed by the humiliation, Parolles blusters on about a lost drum, symbol of his noisy vanity, until he endures captivity and imprisonment by his own men, disguised as the enemy. They blindfold him, mutter foreign-sounding mumbo-jumbo e. Begging for mercy, Parolles sings like a lark, enthusiastically slandering his friends and betraying his fellow soldiers. The ordeal and exposure recall Plautus Miles Gloriosus, where Pyrgopolynices likewise ends up amidst a hostile, jeering crowd and begs for mercy; the tormentors strip both soldiers of their fine clothing and leave them in shame.
Again the braggart surprises us at the end of the play, this time self-consciously repudiating his mask, Captain Ill be no more 4. Realizing that every braggart shall be found an ass, Parolles resolves to live on anyway, Being fooled, by foolery thrive! In Alls Well That Ends Well the exposure of Parolles illuminates that of his friend, the proud, lusty, deceitful Bertram, who shows other varieties of self-love.
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Parolles false capture parallels Bertrams public humiliation. Exposed as boasters and liars, both come to hard realizations about themselves and their follies. The bragging soldier appears variously in the history plays as well as the comedies. He speaks a strange, bombastic language, filled with classical allusion and garbled echoes of contemporary plays: Nay, rather damn them with King Cerberus, and let the welkin roar. Here literary reminiscence the pampered jades derive from Marlowes 2 Tamburlaine 4. Pistol and his gang of rag-tag tavern buddies bicker throughout the plays. Despite the pretentious swagger, they live like paupers and adopt any shift to survive.
One of them, Bardolph, gets hanged for robbing a church. Pistol himself suffers humiliating exposure: he gets publicly beaten and must eat a leek for insulting a true soldier, Fluellen. After, he vows to turn bawd and cutpurse Henry V, 5. Falstaff of the history plays represents Shakespeares most complex adaptation of the braggart soldier.
Part Plautine parasite, folk Lord of Misrule, and medieval Vice from the moral play, Falstaff raises bluster to the level of theatrical art. He covers his cowardice at Gadshill by inventing a tale of combat against an ever-expanding number of phantom men in buckram 1 Henry IV, 2. Quick with colorful insult, he eats, drinks, and makes merry, displaying a genius for extemporaneous performance and for creating excuses.
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Thou knowest in the state of innocency Adam fell; and what should poor Jack Falstaff do in the days of villainy? Thou seest I have more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty 3. Falstaff also has excellent instincts for survival.
He plays dead to avoid fighting; The better part of valor is discretion 5. In 1 Henry IV he misuses the kings press to draft wealthy men so that he can collect bribes for exemptions from service. He winds up with an army of sick paupers who die in battle. Finally, anticipating royal favor, Falstaff receives instead from the new King public rebuke and humiliation. Poor and alone, Falstaff dies, we hear in Henry V, partly of a broken heart. Pistol and Falstaff have always entertained audiences and set into relief the courage of the true soldiers around them.
The rebel Hotspur from 1 Henry IV, for example, boasts, but also dares to pluck bright honor from the pale-faced moon 1. Prince Hal enjoys the tavern world also but rises to face his Pistol and Falstaff, however, have another, more subversive, function in the history plays: together they undercut the values of nationalism and heroism on display. Pistol goes to France to steal but so too does King Henry, we uneasily realize, his claims to that throne spuriously justified by the self-serving prelates Ely and Canterbury in the first scene.
Is the English invasion noble imperialism or grand theft? Falstaff pointedly challenges the entire ethos of military honor. What is honor? A word. What is in that word, honor?
What is that honor? Air 1 Henry IV, 5. Looking at a fallen comrade, he says, I like not such grinning honor as Sir Walter hath.
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Give me life 5. In these plays classical stereotypes raise searching questions about the nature of fame and heroism. Plot tangling and untangling A monks discovery of Aristotles lost treatise on comedy causes death and destruction in Umberto Ecos brilliant The Name of the Rose.
That teasing fantasy notwithstanding, posterity has rested content with Aristotles random observations and the Tractatus Coislinianus, a series of notes presumably derived from his lectures. These materials rank plot muthos , or the arrangement of incidents, as the most important element of drama. Accordingly, Greek playwrights like Menander devised intricate patterns of comic action including mistaken identities, deceits, and conflicts between parents and children which served as models for Plautus, Terence, and their followers.
Plautus and Terence arranged these incidents into a sequence consisting of protasis exposition , epitasis complication , and catastrophe resolution. Later commentators on Terence perceived a five-act structure in his works. Inheriting a drama played in masks, Plautus and Terence often wrote plots with parallel characters in parallel situations: Bacchides features two young men, two old men, and two courtesans, for example; Andria, two young men, two young women, and two love affairs.
The Roman penchant for parallels bore fruit in the rich varieties of plot doubling, repetition, contrast, and counterpoint in Shakespearean comedy the two gentlemen of Verona and their loves, for example, the two sets of twins in The Comedy of Errors, the two sisters and courtships in The Taming of the Shrew, the two love affairs in Much Ado About Nothing, and the two households in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Later playwrights, of course, raided individual plays for action and story. Both Jonson and Shakespeare, for example, adapted Plautus Aulularia, Euclio wants the fires extinguished lest someone borrow a light ; he is so cheap, the slaves joke, that he closes his mouth when he sleeps so as not to lose air; he saves his bathwater and clipped nails ff.