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Shakespearean MelancholyPhilosophy, Form and the Transformation of Comedy$
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J. F. Bernard

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474417334

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474417334.001.0001

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Comic Symmetry and English Melancholy

Comic Symmetry and English Melancholy

(p.56) Chapter 2 Comic Symmetry and English Melancholy
Shakespearean Melancholy

J. F. Bernard

Edinburgh University Press

The chapters attest to the mutual transformation of comedy and melancholy that Shakespeare develops. considers the ways in which early Shakespearean comedies interrogate established conceptions of english melancholy such as lovesickness, mourning and interiority. Both The Comedy of Errors and Love’s Labour’s Lost apply pressure on these melancholic expressions by developing them within explicitly comedic settings. The chapter underscores the critique that Shakespearean comedy performs in reworking such philosophical notions, which culminates in the ambiguously happy resolution put forth. In both plays, there exist parallel efforts to neutralise and rehabilitate melancholic characters. The humour is not easily purged away through medical expertise, nor is it ultimately celebrated as a sign of interiority. There remains a perceptible sense of doubt as to whether characters eventually do away with the melancholy they express. Love’s Labour’s Lost in particular, with the jarring announcement of the King’s death, suggests that the melancholy of early comedies shatters established classification. In its initial form, the chapter suggests, Shakespearean comedy already rejects traditional definitions of melancholy.

Keywords:   Lovesickness, Interiority, Doubling, Identity, Ethnology, Englishness

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