Shakespearean Comedies:Comparisons and ContrastsWilliamShakespeares comedies, Twelfth Night,The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Nights Dream all juxtapose twodifferent worlds that are often in conflict. Their plots centered around the protagonists efforts to move from oneworld to the other and to survive in the new world of his or her choice. Forexample, Shakespeares A MidsummerNights Dream is a play that encompasses three worlds: the romantic worldof the aristocratic lovers, where romance is valued; the work day world of therude mechanicals, who value work; and the fairy world of Titania andOberon.
It is of interest to note thatwhile all three worlds tangle and intertwine during the course of the play, itis the fairy world that has the greatest impact, for both the lovers and themechanicals are changed forever by their contact with the children and thevalues of Pan. The plotof A Midsummer Nights Dream revolvesaround the consequences of a law in the city of Athens which gave to itscitizens the power of compelling their daughters to marry whomsoever theypleased; for upon a daughters refusing to marry the man her father had chosento be her husband, the father was empowered by this law to cause her to be putto death. Of course fathers do notoften desire the death of their own daughters, even though they do happen attimes to be a little rebellious, this law was seldom or never put in execution. Therewas one instance however of an old man, whose name was Egeus, who actually didcomplain that his daughter Hermia refused to marry Demetrius, a young man of anoble Athenian family whom he had chosen for her, because she loved anotheryoung Athenian named Lysander. Egeus valued obedience in his children anddemanded justice of Theseus, and insisted that this cruel but in his eyesnecessary law might be put in force against his daughter Hermia, who he wantedto punish for rebelling against him and rejecting his values.Order now
(Shakespeare)SoLysander proposes to Hermia that she should steal out of her fathers housethat night and go with him to his aunts house, where he would marry her. So they enter this new world and meet withmisfortune right away because Puck mistakenly puts a spell on Lysander and he fallsin love with Helena. But everything issorted out and all ends happily. In Twelfth Night a damaging tempestshipwrecks the heroine Viola, casts her upon a foreign shore, and separates herfrom her beloved brother, who she thinks must be dead.
Upon arrival in this strange seaport Violadons a male disguise, for she can only make her way in this alien land if sheassumes the trappings and privileges of masculinity. Her doublet and hose act as her passport and provide her with alivelihood, a love interest, and friendship. Without the disguise the inhabitants would not accept her, for they didnot treat newcomers well, especially women. Itshould be noted that Illyria is no brave new world rigidly controlled by aseemingly omnipotent wizard, nor is it characterized by symmetry andrestraint.
It is a place where reasonis absent and where the most sane individual is the professional jester,Feste. It is a world turned upsidedown, where customary practices are subverted, rebelled against, or relaxed,and misrule is valued. Despitethese challenges, in a few days time Viola, through her wit, charm, loyaltyand musical ability, successfully establishes herself in this world and winsthe trust of the Duke, who employs her to woo Olivia. In her loyalty to the Duke, even though she is deeply in lovewith him, she makes an honest attempt to win Olivias love, but ultimatelyachieves happiness in the Dukes world and marries him.
In termsof appearance versus reality, it is significant that although the characters inShakespeares plays use disguises for different purposes, disguise alwaysimparts the theme of appearance versus reality, especially in Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Nights Dream, and The Taming of the Shrew. For example, in Twelfth Night Olivias readiness to fall in love with appearancesis a lesson about love and demonstrates that disguise sometimes reveals morethan candor. Shakespeares The Taming of theShrew revolves around a gentleman named Baptista, who had two fairdaughters. The eldest, Katharine, wasso very cross, ill-tempered, and unmannerly that no one ever dreamed ofmarrying her. In contrast, her sisterBianca was so sweet, pretty, and pleasant-spoken that more than one suitorasked her father for her hand.
(Shakespeare)ButBaptista, despite the fact that his eldest daughter was so rebellious andstrong-willed, insisted that she must marry first. This had the affect of rewarding disobedience and punishingobedience, for the pleasant daughter could not be happily married until theshrewish daughter was happily married. To solvetheir dilemma Biancas suitors decided among themselves to try and get some oneto marry Katharine so her father might at least be willing to listen to theirsuit for Bianca. A gentleman fromVerona named Petruchio was the one they thought of, and half in jest they askedhim if he would marry Katharine, the disagreeable scold. Much to their surprise he agreed to theproposition, said that she was just the sort of wife for him, and if Katharinewere handsome and rich, he himself would undertake soon to make hergood-tempered. Petruchio is coldly rejected by Katharine when he tries to enter herworld, but whether she fell in love with Petruchio, or whether she was onlyglad to meet a man who was not afraid of her, or whether she was flatteredthat, in spite of her rough words and spiteful usage, he still desired her forhis wife, she in fact does marry him, which is when his real challenge must befaced, for he must tame her.
NowKatharine enters a new worldas Petruchios wifeand her new husbands mannerwas so violent, and he behaved all through his wedding in so mad and dreadful amanner, that Katharine trembled and went with him. He mounted her on astumbling, lean, old horse, and they journeyed by rough muddy ways toPetruchios house as he scolded and snarled at her all the way. (Shakespeare)She wasterribly tired when she reached her new home, but Petruchio was determined thatshe should neither eat nor sleep that night, for he had made up his mind toteach his bad-tempered wife a lesson she would never forget, and proceeded todo so, with favorable results. The Taming of the Shrew also offers agood example of the theme of appearance versus reality for there are manydiscrepancies between what seems to be and what is. For example, at the very beginning when ChristoferoSly falls asleep falls asleep he is tricked into believing he is lord of themanor. As he starts to believe thetrickery, he begins to change and becomes like that which he is supposed tobe.
At the moment of his realization heeven begins to speak in verse, a reflection that, at least in his mind, he hasactually become a nobleman. In themain part of The Taming of the Shrewthere are two main story lines, the wooing of a daughter of Baptista and thetaming of her sister. Both involvesuitors who disguise themselves as what they are not and both involve women whoare not what they seem on the surface. The menin The Taming of the Shrew valueobedience in their wives, and ultimately, Petruchio wins the wager he proposedto prove who had the most obedient wife, gains a loving wife in Katharine, andwhen he had broken her proud and angry spirit he loved her well. So they both achieved happiness in their newlives.
Inconclusion, William Shakespeares plays TwelfthNight, The Taming of the Shrew, and AMidsummer Nights Dream all juxtapose two different worlds that are oftenin conflict. Their plots center aroundthe protagonists efforts to move from one world to the other and to survive inthe new and challenging world of his or her choice. In The Taming of the ShrewPetruchio and Katharine win happiness in their new world of marriage, as do theDuke and Viola and Twelfth Night, andLysander and Hermia in A MidsummerNights Dream. BibliographyShakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992.
_ __. AMidsummer Nights Dream. New York:Washington Square Press, 1993. _ __.
TwelfthNight. New York: Washington SquarePress, 1993.