IN an earlier and somewhat and discourse I was concerned with the discordance between the orthodox satiric or corrective theory of Comedy and the practice of Shakespeare. An examination of the two most famous expositions of that theory, one English and one French, disclosed its delusive neatness as an account of Comedy in general, and revealed also the discomfort of its eminent expositors when they allowed themselves to reflect on the extravagant cost of their critical tidiness, on the richness and wholesomeness of the comic forces which they were excluding. A theory of Comedy, or of Comedy par excellence, which relegates, and is bound to relegate, most of Shakespeare's comic world to an appendix, stands, clearly, on too narrow a basis, at any rate for English use.
One suggestion was that Shakespeare is too poetic for Comedy proper. Comedy deals with familar surroundings and with society as it exists; but Shakespeare the romantic habitually does neither. There is, of course, much truth in this. Recall that romantic world in which Shakespeare is happiest--the world of his comedies and young people--that incomparable rainbow mixture of Old England and Utopia --and you will observe that most of these plays begin with some artificial seclusion or segregation from the world. The curtain goes up; and at once, or in a scene or two, the door is shut on ordinary life. Except in The Comedy of Errors and The Merchant of Venice, where the play opens on a public mart, hardly anybody goes to business in these Shakespearian latitudes, or seems to be obliged to get up at any particular time--though, on the whole, except for the drinkers, all