Courtliness and laughter

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:
Courtliness and laughter

Show Summary Details


The world of Baldassare Castiglione's Book of the Courtier (1528) displays a striking affinity with William Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, not only with regard to the courtly arena that both texts present but also because of their shared concern with ideals of courtly behaviour. In Book 2 of The Courtier, the courtiers discuss the prescriptions that govern the proper art of jesting. This chapter looks at the courtly precepts on laughter. At court, hostile jesting was now derided as vulgar. Taste and decorum were the key values. Wit was a technique of self-promotion, a means of displaying one's skill at entertaining one's peers. Laughter was above all a form of pleasant diversion or a lubricant deployed to defuse social tension. Shakespeare adapted these norms for the public theatre and stages them in Love's Labour's Lost. What he also imports into the theatre is the aristocratic notion of play as gratuitous pleasure, serving no other purpose than to entertain.

Keywords: Baldassare Castiglione; Book of Courtier; William Shakespeare; Love's Labour's Lost; courtly behaviour; courtiers; jesting; laughter; theatre; pleasure

Chapter.  17946 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.