Article Title

Comedy and Control: Shakespeare and the Plautine Poeta


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Several of Shakespeare's plays come to their conclusions-at least in the logics of the works themselves-mainly through the agency of a central controlling character. Theseus and Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Vincentio in Measure for Measure, and Prospero in The Tempest, for instance, all appear to wield a considerable influence over the outcome of their plays. Most often aristocratic, this figure effects the drama's denouement by the discovery and control of information concerning the social world he or she is engaged (however temporarily) in governing. Such information, typically involving familial or romantic relationships, is obtained through disguise, deceit, and/ or the assistance of a subordinate character. Although versions of this controlling figure can be found in Shakespeare's histories ( e.g., Richard ill, and Hal, as both Prince and King) as well as in the tragedies ( e.g., Iago and Hamlet)-where, however intended, their dramatic machinations bring unfortunate and unhappy results---only in the comedies (including the romances) do such figures enjoy an apparently limitless measure of dramatic control. In doing so, they are frequently perceived as approximating some depiction of the dramatist's art. With his "great globe itself' speech (IV.i.148-58),1 for example, Prospero traditionally-even notoriously- has been described as symbolically embodying Shakespeare's own position as playwright.

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