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date: 26 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Commentators have long noted Shakespeare’s indebtedness to New Comedy throughout his career. Passages and plays of Plautus and Terence contributed characters, configurations, plots, and dramatic devices to Shakespeare, who transformed them into new creations. But classical comedy depicted also human lust, folly, and vice, especially as read by later Christian generations. Three points of dissonance between classical comedy and Christian reading claim our attention as Shakespeare refigures New Comedic rage, prostitution, and rape in his comedies. In Shakespeare’s receptions the rage of the senex iratus, ‘angry old man’, becomes variously expressed and interrogated, wholly integrated into the thematic and moral schemes of his plays. Comedic prostitution supplies Shakespeare’s depictions of gender conflicts and becomes a central and pervasive metaphor for the human condition in Troilus and Cressida. Finally, Shakespeare transforms New Comedic rape in a number of plays, rewriting the ancient paradigm to disempower the men and empower the women.

Keywords: New Comedy, rage, rape, prostitution, classical reception

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