In this classic work, acclaimed Shakespeare critic C. L. Barber argues that Elizabethan seasonal festivals such as May Day and Twelfth Night are the key to understanding Shakespeare's comedies. Brilliantly interweaving anthropology, social history, and literary criticism, Barber traces the inward journey--psychological, bodily, spiritual--of the comedies: from confusion, raucous laughter, aching desire, and aggression, to harmony. Revealing the interplay between social custom and dramatic form, the book shows how the Elizabethan antithesis between everyday and holiday comes to life in the comedies' combination of seriousness and levity. "I have been led into an exploration of the way the social form of Elizabethan holidays contributed to the dramatic form of festive comedy. To relate this drama to holiday has proved to be the most effective way to describe its character. And this historical interplay between social and artistic form has an interest of its own: we can see here, with more clarity of outline and detail than is usually possible, how art develops underlying configurations in the social life of a culture."--C. L.
Barber, in the Introduction This new edition includes a foreword by Stephen Greenblatt, who discusses Barber's influence on later scholars and the recent critical disagreements that Barber has inspired, showing that Shakespeare's Festive Comedy is as vital today as when it was originally published.
C. L. Barber was a fellow of the Folger Shakespeare Library and a world-renowned Shakespeare scholar. His books include "The Whole Journey: Shakespeare's Power of Development" and "Creating Elizabethan Tragedy: The Theater of Marlowe and Kyd."
Foreword stephen greenblatt xi Preface xvii Chapter One: Introduction: The Saturnalian Pattern 1 Through Release to Clarification 5 Shakespeare's Route to Festive Comedy 10 Chapter Two: holiday custom and entertainment 16 The May Game 19 The Lord of Misrule 25 Aristocratic Entertainments 32 Chapter Three: Misrule as Comedy; Comedy as Misrule 39 License and Lese Majesty in Lincolnshire 40 The May Game of Martin Marprelate 56 Chapter Four: Prototypes of Festive Comedy in a Pageant Entertainment: Summer's Last Will and Testament 64 "What can be made of Summer's last will and testament?" 64 Presenting the Mirth of the Occasion 68 Praise of Folly: Bacchus and Falstaff 75 Festive Abuse 82 "Go not yet away, bright soul of the sad year" 90 Chapter Five: The Folly of Wit and Masquerade in Love's Labour's Lost 98 "lose our oaths to find ourselves" 100 "sport by sport o'erthrown" 105 "a great feast of languages" 107 Wit 112 Putting Witty Folly in Its Place 116 "When ... Then ..."--The Seasonal Songs 128 Chapter Six: May Games and Metamorphoses on a Midsummer Night 135 The Fond Pageant 141 Bringing in Summer to the Bridal 149 Magic as Imagination: The Ironic Wit 159 Moonlight and Moonshine: The Ironic Burlesque 168 The Sense of Reality 179 Chapter Seven: The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth's Communion and an Intruder 185 Making Distinctions about the Use of Riches 188 Transcending Reckoning at Belmont 197 Comical/Menacing Mechanism in Shylock 201 The Community Setting Aside Its Machinery 209 Sharing in the Grace of Life 212 Chapter Eight: Rule and Misrule in henry iv 219 Mingling Kings and Clowns 223 Getting Rid of Bad Luck by Comedy 234 The Trial of Carnival in Part Two 243 Chapter Nine: The Alliance of Seriousness and Levity in A You Like It 252 The Liberty of Arden 254 Counterstatements 257 "all nature in love mortal in folly" 260 Chapter Ten: Testing Courtesy and Humanity in Twelfth Night 272 "A most extracting frenzy" 275 "You are betroth'd both to a maid and man" 277 Liberty Testing Courtesy 281 Outside the Garden Gate 292 Index 297