Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dying is easy; comedy is hard

I have a very dear friend who frequently sends me links to YouTube videos he thinks are hilarious. And I almost never laugh. (The most recent offering was for some product Jerry Stiller was hawking and I thought the commercial was like bad vaudeville.)  I was thinking about that in relationship to Shakespeare and his comedies. Or more precisely, Shakespeare and his comic characters. Comedy relies so much on context--on the joke teller and the audience "being on the same page" that it's a wonder a single sitcom can manage it, much less a playwright who lived centuries ago in a world that was different from ours today that any account of it might as well begin with "Once Upon a Time."
A lot of Shakespeare's comic relief characters do not work for me, not even in performance when an actor (and the comic relief characters are mostly male, aren't they?) can bring the comedy to a level I can relate to.
I have never enjoyed Falstaff, for instance. He appears in his "jolly" incarnation in three plays, Henry IV, pt. 1, Henry IV, pt. 2, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. For more about Falstaff, check out the post here. Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare: General Q & A Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (August 12, 2012) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/faq/falstaff.html>.
I also hate Dogberry from Much Ado About Nothing. Every time he steps upon the stage, the energy of the play drops for me. The malapropisms just lie flat for me.
But I know both these opinions are minority ones, and that by general regard, Falstaff is Shakespeare's greatest comic creation. 
If I had to pick, though, my favorite Shakespeare clown would be Bottom from A Midsummer Night's Dream, with the Tempest's Stefano a close second.


  1. Katherine, check out Dan Simmons on Falstaff-- and more Shakespeare. Quite a bit to say on that.
    We were at the Globe last year, seeing Hamlet. As an old acting ham enamored of literature, I was in glory.
    And this weekend, my young daughter had her first date- to go see A Midsummer Night's Dream. Even protective dad couldn't say no to that!

  2. I will check Dan's thoughts out. I would have liked to see the Stratford's Merry Wives of Windsor a few years back just to see if the production could shake my prejudice. a magical first date.