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p. 775. Characterlocked

  • Bart van Es


In his 1927 study, Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster divided characters into two categories: ‘flat’ and ‘round’. Shakespeare’s ability to create distinct, memorable characters has long been singled out for praise. Shakespeare’s most memorable creations—such as Bottom, Falstaff, and Malvolio—tend to have a complicating element of sadness, which can knock comedy off course: there is always an element of unease. How does Shakespeare combine complexity with laughter? And make pathos compatible with farce? One answer is that his characters are shape-shifters. Shakespeare adapts their level of self-awareness to the moment so that, dependant on the requirements of the drama, they can be both ‘flat’ and ‘round’.

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