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date: 04 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay is about the relationship between comic form and domestic politics—about how Shakespeare makes comedy out of household encounters, and how his plays might have intervened in current political thinking about family life and gender relations. Bringing the plays into dialogue with a range of contemporary prescriptive literature about household practice, it argues that the relationship between comedy as a genre and the patriarchal ideals of domestic organization which structured early modern society was a turbulent one, and that this adds to the plays’ political purchase and their theatrical power. The essay looks in detail at relationships between household heads, children and parents, and servants and their masters, focusing on the qualities of submission and authority which Shakespeare develops in his verse and staging—it aims to answer the question, just how does he put domestic encounters on the early modern stage?

Keywords: gender relations, household, theatrical gesture, staging practices, hospitality, marriage, domestic life, gender politics, servants, genre

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