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p. 332. Witlocked

  • Bart van Es


‘Wit’ considers Shakespeare’s jokes, including puns, double meanings, and the psychology of laughter. Many aspects of Shakespeare’s comedy remain constant, but there are also developments over the course of his career. The earliest plays are more lyrical; the middle ones (c.1600–5) contain harsher satire; and the late plays (written after 1607) have a fairy-tale aspect and are generally referred to as ‘romances’ and not as comedies at all. One striking change comes in 1600 when Shakespeare’s longstanding lead comic actor, Will Kemp, was replaced by a very different performer: the diminutive and satirical writer-performer Robert Armin. This shift produced an immediate alteration in the way that Shakespeare used wit.

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