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date: 24 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

While they might seem like ‘toys’ or ‘trifles’, stage properties in Shakespeare’s comedies subtly unsettle the relationship between human subject and non-human object. Even such seemingly innocuous comedic props as letters (in Two Gentlemen of Verona and Love’s Labour’s Lost) and rings (in The Merchant of Venice) can be given incommensurate weight by the comic plot. Drawing on both semiotic and phenomenological accounts of stage props as well as the synthesis of these approaches in the work of Erika Lin and Andrew Sofer, this essay explores the broad continuum between the comically disruptive misdirected letter and absent, irreplaceable objects like Shylock’s turquoise ring and demonstrates just how rigorously Shakespeare’s comic props test our investment in comedic narrative and the comic resolution.

Keywords: stage properties, props, phenomenology, semiotics, Prague School, subjectivity, letters, rings

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