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Shakespeare, Rabelais, and the Comical-Historical


Cathleen T. McLoughlin

This intertextual reading of William Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I & II with François Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel suggests that sufficient evidence exists to question the widespread denial of any knowledge of Rabelais on the part of Shakespeare. In each work, a prince participates in a process of education in preparation to succeed his father. Each prince shares adventures with an unconventional, comic companion. History and comedy form a hybrid genre, the Comical-Historical. Foundational chapters discuss the works of two other writers of hybridized genres, Lucian and Erasmus, as well as several visual artifacts of the time period. The figure of Socrates in a variety of guises appears in the work of the four writers. Shakespeare, this study suggests, extends the tradition established for the renaissance by Erasmus and augmented by Rabelais.