Chapter

Introduction

Indira Ghose

in Shakespeare and Laughter

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780719076923
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700983 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719076923.003.0001
Introduction

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This book examines laughter in the Shakespearean theatre in the context of a cultural history of early modern laughter. Few cultural phenomena have undergone as radical a change in meaning as laughter, which today automatically triggers positive associations: pleasure, relaxation and a response to humour. When William Shakespeare refers to laughter, he evokes the conventional associations of frivolity, immorality and folly. Two brief passages might serve as examples, one in Troilus and Cressida and another in The Merchant of Venice. The early modern age saw a number of important developments in the history of laughter. This book looks at a number of them in separate chapters. The most crucial of these developments was the evolving culture of courtly manners. The book also considers attacks on laughter by Puritans and religious reformers, and, finally, takes a closer look at the book that launched the idea of the wise fool, Erasmus' Praise of Folly.

Keywords: theatre; William Shakespeare; laughter; humour; cultural history; Erasmus; Praise of Folly; courtly manners; wise fool; Puritans

Chapter.  5985 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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