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July 17, 2014

What You Need to Know About William Shakespeare's Comedies: Characteristics, Types, and a List of Comedies

Shakespeare's comedies all share the following characteristics:

Young lovers struggle to overcome obstacles
The obstacles that the lovers face are usually the result of the parents or guardians interfering with the relationship of the lovers. In the beginning of the play, the lovers are separated by an unfortunate sequence of events, and they spend the rest of the play trying to reunite. Their separation can be physically or emotionally.

Mistaken Identity
Mistaken identity seems to be Shakespeare's favorite elements, because it appears in so many of his plays. This can take several forms: mixed-up twins (Twelfth Night), disguise (The Merchant of Venice), and gender mix-ups (Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice). He often liked to have characters disguise themselves as the opposite sex, which led to many misunderstandings and comical situations. In Shakespearean times, men played the all the roles in a play, which added another dimension to comedy of gender mix-ups.

Plot Twists
Shakespeare's comedies always involve many clever plot twists that are skillfully intertwined to keep the audience in suspense. These plot twists are always worked out by the end of the play, leaving the audience with a happy ending.

Shakespeare is one of the best at wordplay. A pun is the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound. His comedies are filled with puns; they are sometimes silly and vulgar, but always clever.

Stock Characters
These are characters that appear throughout all of his plays. Examples of these stock characters are: the fool, young couple, the clever servant, drunkard, etc.

Happy Endings:
Shakespeare's comedies always end with a happy ending. Many comedies end in marriage or impending marriage.

Shakespeare's Comedies fall into one of the following types:

A physical comedy. It is characterized by over exaggerated and aggressive visual action.

Dark comedy
A combination of comedy and tragedy. They often have death, war, or illness as a part of the central theme. They often use irony and innuendo.

The lead character drives the plot. They often use exaggerated dress, speech, and movement to attract attention.

Two people who see completely wrong for each other in the beginning end up falling in love with each other. The plot is usually driven by mistaken identity, reversals of fortune, and unconventional supporting characters.

They make fun of stereotypes, conventions, and clich├ęs of a specific genre.

They mock/ridicule authority or tradition. They usually have witty dialogue, irony, and improbably situations designed to make social commentary.

A List of Shakespeare's Comedies

All's Well That Ends Well
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Love's Labor's Lost
Measure for Pleasure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Twelfth Night
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Two Noble Kingsmen
The Winter's Tale