Shakespeare’s Comedies of Play by J. Dennis Huston (auth.)

By J. Dennis Huston (auth.)

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Extra info for Shakespeare’s Comedies of Play

Example text

Solinus still cannot associate himself with this judgment - the prisoner is condemned 'by law' - but the Duke has at last apparently issued the decree of death. He has no more issued it, however, than he begins to take it a wa y, to delay its enactment: he calls for Egeon to tell his story and to explain what cause drew him to Ephesus. Having begun by ordering his prisoner to plead his case no more, Solinus now in effect commands him to plead it again. The only continuity in the behavior and speeches of this Duke is discontinuity.

In presenting Berowne as a gifted manipulator of language and a facile play-maker, then, Shakespeare calls dramatic attention not only to the joy but also to the danger confronting the playwright who, like him, would shape within a sheltered world yet another world built almost entirely out oflanguage: that language and the play it gives form to must be rooted in the wider world outside the theater. However insulated that dramatic world may be, however personal its reference of action, however self-delighting its Love's Labour's Lost 45 language, it must eventually speak meaningfully to members of an audience about a realm they know, and in a language they understand.

His first 24 Shakespeare's Comedies of Play speech is, in fact, a conscious effort to convince himself of the need for Egeon's death. He is not disposed, he claims,confirming the idea by his denial - to set aside the laws of his country; Syracuse and Ephesus have of late engaged in wars, and the Duke of Syracuse has harshly put Ephesians to death, so Egeon can expect no pity from 'our threatening looks' (10). The sudden shift here from the 'I' ofline four to the royal 'we' gives emphasis to the Duke's attempt to act as imperson~l justiciary.

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