Early Shakespeare
English 105A, Fall 2008, Patricia Fumerton
Notes for Class 3 (back to schedule)

Influences on Shakespearean Comedy:

1) Classical Comedy:

  • Old Comedy (Aristophanes)
    • political; agonistic; dialectical (+ identity switching)
  • New Comedy (Greek Menander, Roman Terence, and esp. Roman Plautus)
    • intrigue plot based on marriage
    • comedy of manners
    • comedy of situation (disguisings)

2) Native Tradition:

  • Saturnalian festivals of misrule (+ identity swtiching)
Next class section

Taming of the Shrew reveals both Classical and Native Influences:

Of the Classical:

  • Old Comedy
    • exchanges of wit
  • New Comedy
    • type characters
    • Bianca Plot based on George Gascoigne's prose drama, Supposes, which was taken from Ariosto's Il Suppositi, which was itself based on Terence's The Eunuch and Plautus's The Captives).
    And from both: identity switching/disguisings

Previous class section Next class section

Of the Native Tradition:

  • Katherine/Petruchio shrew-taming plot (popular in England)


  • Sly Induction
    • introduces "game" of Saturnalian festivities
    • Sly and the Page are the Lord and Lady of Misrule
    • they watch a "Christmas gambold" or "tumbling-trick" and "let the world slip"

Previous class section Next class section

Zefferilli film production, with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, captures

  • Native Festival comedic tradition of misrule (which also stands behind Old and New Classical comedy)
  • as well as the the wit exchanges especially typical of Old Comedy
  • and the farcical slapstick typical of all three

Comedic "History"

  • play does not only reenact the Saturnalian release of the historical festivals of Shakespeare's time
  • also fulfills people's fantasies (of other roles)
  • even at the level of language: images become reality and reality becomes images
Previous class section Next class section

* Course Home | Overview | Schedule | Study Materials | Assignments
* Student Projects | Grading |
Instructor | Help * Course News | Contact Info