As She Likes It: Shakespeare's Unruly Women

By Penny Gay | Go to book overview

NOTES

INTRODUCTION

1
Shakespeare himself was aware of the theory of comedy, allowing the academic wit Biron to articulate it in the early Love’s Labours Lost:

Our wooing doth not end like an old play.

Jack hath not Jill. These ladies’ courtesy

Might well have made our sport a comedy.

(V.2, 860-2)

2
The most influential books on Shakespearean comedy since the 1950s have been C.L. Barber, Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1959) and Northrop Frye, A Natural Perspective (New York, Columbia University Press, 1965). A summary of these and other important critical work can be found in M.M. Mahood, ‘Shakespeare’s middle comedies: a generation of criticism’, Shakespeare Survey, 32, 1979, pp. 1-15. The first half of the century is covered by John Russell Brown, ‘The interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedies: 1900-1953’, Shakespeare Survey, 8, 1955, pp. 1-13. W.B. Worthen points out that recent criticism’s ‘relocation of “meaning” from within the text to the ways in which a text can be made to perform has fundamentally altered both the practice and the consequences of literary criticism of the drama, especially in Renaissance studies’ (p. 443, ‘Deeper meanings and theatrical technique: the rhetoric of performance criticism’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 40, 4, 1989, pp. 441-55). Stephen Greenblatt’s concept of ‘the circulation of social energy’, in Shakespearean Negotiations (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988) is an outstanding example relevant to this study: ‘Power, charisma, sexual excitement, collective dreams, wonder, desire, anxiety, religious awe, free-floating intensities of experience…everything produced by the society can circulate unless it is deliberately excluded from circulation. Under such circumstances, there can be no single method, no overall picture, no exhaustive and definitive cultural poetics’ (p. 19). The other important recent development is of course that of feminist criticism, for which see notes 3, 4, 5, 22, 28, and 33.
3
Elaine Showalter, ‘Introduction: the rise of gender’ in Speaking of

-180-

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