Development of the topic

To start with, we should have in mind a clear idea about each comedy. So in order to know that, I will briefly explain the plot of each comedy so that you will understand better the analysis and comparison of the characters.

The Comedy of Errors

So, I will start with The Comedy of Errors, which is one of his earliest comedies. It is said to be the shortest play in Shakespeare. It consists in a humorous and farcical plot caused by mistaken identities. We can find an online version in youtube, which sticks to the original text. Also we can see it while reading the written version in this website, in which you can find everything about Shakespeare.

The Comedy of Errors is the story about two couples of twins that were separated at birth, so when they grow up, they didn’t know anything about the other’s existence. When Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse arrive to Ephesus, where the two other twins live, it starts to happen a lot of confussion because of mistaken identities. They are even accused of madness and demonic possession. Finally, they all meet at the same time and realize that there are two couples of twins. And also, both Antipholus met up with his father. So, the order in restablished and we have a happy ending.

Regarding the characters, we could start with the two couple of twins in which, both Antipholus are the masters, and both Dromio are the servants. While the master plays jokes on Dromio and blame him about all misunderstandings, overcoat Antipholus of Ephesus with Dromio of Ephesus, Dromio plays the role of the jester or the fool, although he is indulgent and manageable.

Then, Adriana, who is Antipholus of Ephesus’ wife, plays the role of a strong woman, who likes having the power. She complains about his husband’s attitude, although it is one the misunderstandings, because he is not his real husband, he is Antipholus of Syracuse. She is not submissive as Luciana, her sister. This one is a good-natured person, and very understanding. We could say that between both, Adriana is the one with the strongest character while Luciana is the one with the weakest one.

Much Ado About Nothing

Moving on to the comedy of Shakespeare’s middle period, Much Ado About Nothing, as we explained in the first paper, it is about a two pairs of lovers, Beatrice and Benedick, and Hero and Caudio. The first cuople don’t want to recognise their love at first, but then when overhearing a someone else’s conversation, they show each other their love. While the other love story is a little bit different, because they are committed from the beggining but when Claudio misunderstands a possible Hero’s infidelity, he rejects her at the altar. But finally, they came up with the truth and we have two happy endings.

As we analized in the first paper, the strongest character is Beatrice, because she is a woman with a philosophy well ahead of its time. She doesn’t want to marry, although she ends up marrying. On the other hand, the character of Hero is a very weak person and possibly because of she is still very young, we don’t see her with very clear ideas, as Beatrice.

The Taming of the Shrew

Finally, one of Shakespeare’s last comedies, The Taming of the Shrew, deals about a woman called Katherina, who has a very strong character; she is a rebel of the time, and doesn’t want to marry a man, as it was the usual of girls at her age. However, she marries Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona. At the beggining she continues behaving as a shrew, and she is always arguing with him. Maybe, the first time he calls her Kate, instead of Katherina, when they hadn’t yet married, is when he starts taming her, and “steals” her personality calling her Kate. But we won’t see this huge change until the moment they decide to visit her father. This is when she starts behaving as a submissive wife, and obeys all his rules.

In the subplot we see her sister, Bianca, who is a woman with a more affable character, and also very desired by men. She can be considered as a naive woman, and that’s why she allows to be desired by Lucentio and elopes with him.

It has been a very controversial play because it has a lot of misogynous elements. But in my opinion, is one of his most interesting plays, because none is indifferent to it. It kept me thinking about why does she changes her attitude so much. She is supposed to be a rebel, someone who doesn’t soften to anyone, but at the end she becomes the most submissive wife, the one who allows everything to her husband, and always obey him, because it is her task as a good wife. This huge change is confusing to me.

Comparison & analysis

I found a very interesting book about Shakespearean comedies and how they are relate to psychoanalysis, so I selected the parts in which the author talks about the topic we are dealing with in this paper. The book is called: Staging the Gaze. Postmodernism, Psychoanalysis, and Shakespearean Comedy. And it is written by Barbara Freedman.

“Shakespearean comedies are concerned with dislocating perspective; they suggest that only a limited perspectival space defined by error constitutes identity. A limited misrecognition occurs when the comedies thematize these pshysical and visual errors to demonstrate how gender, class, and ideology function as sites of misrecognition. In The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare adds to broad physical, visual comedy an interrogation of the very possibility of a discourse of mastery. In The Taming of the Shrew, Christopher Sly’s interpellation as a lord serves as model for coercive system known as class identity. The construction of Sly’s “madam wife,” who is actually a male servant disguised as a female, highlights the constrictive system of gender against which Kate rebels. The comedies encourage us to question not only the master-servant relationships within the plots but the realtions of power implicit in the conventions of “right spectatorship.” They no sooner create ambiguous subject positions for their characters that they refer the tension of mistaken indetification back to their viewers.

In question is how to read plays that stage reading as erring. Like the characters within The Comedy of Errors, readers of that play are torn between an interpretation of events based on an appealing fantasy of narrative closure and an interpretation that subverts the fantasy of a unified reading. (…)

Comedy claims as its province both the representation of illusion and the illusion of representation, both the forms of desire and the desire of form. Its divided voice allows it to comment on itself and so upon the structure and workings of the psyche as discourse. Its multiple perspectives enable it not only to interrupt its own construction but to stage that interruption in dizzying en abyme structures, in complex games of self-reference, and in paradoxical shifts in levels of representation. Shakespeare’s comedies work at the boundaries between what can and cannot be seen, known, or represented; in their concern with errors, dream, censorship, and illusion, they anticipate Freud’s study of considerations of representability. Like dreams and jokes, the comedies display unconscious discourse, stag the relationship between desire and sinification, and explore how the categories of knowledge and ingnorance are generated.”

(Introduction of the already named book)

“But we have yet fully to appreciate how the comedies’ game with a spectator consciousness offer a model of knowing unknowingness which requires us to rethinkthe reading process. Their notorious resistance to interpretation makes sense in the context of a rich cultural tradition of staging blindness and erring as a form of insight. Their interactive traps not only play upon our desire to see ourselves seeing but expose us as observed from a point of view within as well as from without with which we can never merge. Given their interest in a model of subjectivity which is not ego oriented but based on the inevitable play of blind spots and misrecognitions, given their concern with figuring how we cannot see and know as a form of positive knowledge, Shakespeare’s comedies suggest less a field on which to prove the truth of psychoanalysis than a means by which to rethink issues facing it today.”

(First chapter of the already named book)

Apart from this approach to the topic, I would also like to make my own comment on it. So, in this book it is very well explained how Shakespeare’s comedies are concerned with a huge amount of nowadays topics like the class, or the perspective in which we see a person. And also, we see that the characters are pretty much related with Freud’s psychoanalysis.

Apart from that, if we had to make a paralellism between comedies, we could go to the female characters of Much Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew, in which Beatrice and Katherina have a similar profile. Both are women with a philosophy well ahead of its time that rebels against society with their attitude, but contradictorially they both surrender to the will of a man. The female character on The Comedy of Errors that is most like them, is Adriana. Despite her case is not the same, we can find some similarities in the strong personality, and her desire of power.

Then, going on with the female characters, we could also find a similitude between Luciana, Hero and Bianca, who represent the role of the weak and submissive woman.

In a general view of the plays, it could be argued that in the earliest comedies Shakespeare made a more humorous plots to entertain the spectator, while in the middle and last comedies, he is more consistent in the topics, that’s to say, the plays seemed to me more serious and their plots and development are more complex, at least this is what I observe in this three comedies. While The Comedy of errors tells a humouristic story about misunderstanding; Much Ado About Nothing starts being more serious and we see a more complex characters’ minds, and finally in The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare shows us a conflict inside a woman’s mind, in which she changes through the play from “white to black.”



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