Chapter

Character

Bart van Es

in Shakespeare’s Comedies

Published in print March 2016 | ISBN: 9780198723356
Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780191789823 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/actrade/9780198723356.003.0006

Series: Very Short Introductions

Character

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In his 1927 study, Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster divided characters into two categories: ‘flat’ and ‘round’. Shakespeare’s ability to create distinct, memorable characters has long been singled out for praise. Shakespeare’s most memorable creations—such as Bottom, Falstaff, and Malvolio—tend to have a complicating element of sadness, which can knock comedy off course: there is always an element of unease. How does Shakespeare combine complexity with laughter? And make pathos compatible with farce? One answer is that his characters are shape-shifters. Shakespeare adapts their level of self-awareness to the moment so that, dependant on the requirements of the drama, they can be both ‘flat’ and ‘round’.

Keywords: Bottom; George Chapman; Sir John Falstaff; Samuel Johnson; Ben Jonson; Malvolio; John Marston; Thomas Middleton; Alexander Pope; Royal Shakespeare Company

Chapter.  5606 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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