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The Shakespeare of the Comedies

A multiple approach

John K. Hale

In his first ten comedies Shakespeare is at his most myriad-minded and companionable. He concentrates on giving wide, deep, serious pleasure. «We'll strive to please you every day». So these plays suit a multiple approach which in turn centres on pleasure.
The connected approaches begin with sources and their construction into multiple plot, whose firmness and pleasure Shakespeare well understood. His transforming of sources is also the surest evidence we have of genesis. Next, moving from structure to texture, the study examines the moment-to-moment excitements of the text. Their pleasure principle is then theorised. But pleasure impinges both in the completed effect of each play and in its succession of intense pleasures: the diversity of relations between whole and parts is examined and theorised. Finally, a theory of comedy and of «multiple» approach to it is adumbrated, and briefly tested on Shakespeare's comic work beyond the ten comedies.
Throughout, the reader is offered a method, by which to teach as well as research these inimitable plays. The method moves from probabilities, then probes pleasure seriously, as indeed Shakespeare himself did.