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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers Shakespeare’s comedies as they approach human being comparatively, as a species or ‘kind’. While evidence can readily be found supporting a sense of human privilege, perhaps surprisingly we also find human negative exceptionalism—a sense that humans are uniquely weak among creatures and fundamentally at sea in the cosmos: ‘poor things’. This chapter draws on natural-historical thought (from Pliny’s Historia naturalis to Darwin’s Descent of Man) to consider Shakespeare’s comedy as a taxonomic project in its own right, working with The Winter’s Tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and the Induction to The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare’s ‘comedy of kinds’ sets up what we might call calamities of exposure, and it answers by exploring the terms of entry into what we should call the human fold; comic community, in other words, figures species membership itself.

Keywords: kind, human, animal, creature, species, weakness, membership

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