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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Shakespeare’s comic stagecraft was developed in a world that embraced all kinds of entertainments, from the informality of jesters and festive shows to moral interludes. His choice of plots for his comedies was predominantly governed not by Classical models or humanist theory but by his English dramatic and narrative inheritance. Middle English provided the model of romance that focused on the loves of the high-born, their trials (sometimes including the threat of death) on the way to a happy ending, and a marked emphasis on women’s faithfulness. The most important single author to inspire him was Chaucer, who underlies three of his plays, with Gower in second place. It was an inheritance that made generous space for comedy as funny, but which also opened up the seriousness of the genre such as reached its fullest expression in the last plays.

Keywords: medievalism, theories of comedy, medieval romance, festive comedy, profeminism, Chaucer, Gower

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