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268Comparative Drama The cultural construction of authorship is something we have learned recently to recognize, but we cannot simultaneously proclaim the death of authorship and claim its privileges for ourselves. JOHN D. COX Hope College Camille Wells Slights. Shakespeare's Comic Commonwealths. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993. Pp. viii + 290. $45.00. As its title suggests, this book concerns Shakespeare's multiple comic representations of the common weal or social well-being of Elizabethans. Excluding All's Well that Ends Well for which there is no coverage, Professor Slights reviews the major scholarship of Shakespeare 's comedies and simultaneously offers her own wonderfully fresh, highly imaginative, and deeply learned—but never pedantic— interpretation of ten plays. In her introduction she states her central focus: "most of the characters and events in the so-called romantic comedies are defined less by their relation to love than by their place within a human society." In her conclusion, she rightfully notes that "the comedies provide nothing like a Shakespearian theory of society." Between her introduction and conclusion, she weaves a fine tapestry of coherent interpretations concerning Shakespeare's social emphasis in the comedies. She begins with The Comedy of Errors (1589) and concludes with Twelfth Night (1600). Insights from modern thinkers such as Adam Smith, Arthur Schopenhauer, Hannah Arendt, and Claude Lévi-Strauss permeate her reading of these late sixteenthcentury plays. Equally, if not more significantly, she draws on her own extensive knowledge of the works of Shakespeare's distinguished contemporaries such as John Donne, Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon, and Edmund Spenser to delineate those relationships of central concern to Elizabethans and probably to many other societies: Master and Servant, Man and Wife, and Father and Children. Of course there is no set formula for resolution of all problems arising in these groups in Shakespeare's comedies. However, servants may change masters but their roles are never reversed; wives subordinate their wishes to those of their husbands, and children, especially daughters, are generally bound by the dictates of their fathers, alive or dead. The loner is not the hero of these comedies as he is likely to be in modern literature. In keeping with Shakespeare's variety, the outsider 's fate changes from one play to another. For example, in the denouement of their respective plays, Shylock must become a Christian , but Malvolio remains an unhappy, vengeful fool. For me, the chief beauty of Camille Slights' analyses of these plays is her rigorous adherence to every aspect of their texts. She ob- Reviews269 serves and comments on their settings, character groupings, physical objects passed among the actors, but above all she explores both what the language clarifies and what it does not. She asks these imaginative questions of A Midsummer Night's Dream: "Are Oberon and Titania married? Are there fairy priests and marriages in fairyland? Are there fairy babies or only stolen human children?" The world of Shakespeare's comedies is made up of "a diversified social fabric," as Professor Slights demonstrates throughout her gracefully written, marvelously perceptive, and intellectually honest Shakespeare 's Comic Commonwealths. Her interpretations of these comedies are so solidly grounded in both the language of their respective texts and Shakespeare's milieu that what she has written about these plays will become difficult to ignore and dangerous to disagree with. HARRIET C. FRAZIER Central Missouri State University Arthur Sherbo. Shakespeare's Midwives: Some Neglected Shakespeareans . Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1992. Pp. 203. $33.50. This book may be of more interest to eighteenth- and early nineteenth -century scholars than to Shakespeareans (unless they happen to be editing one of the plays). What Sherbo has done is to rescue from near oblivion seven rather important Shakespeare scholars active between 1775 and 1821, giving something of their lives and numerous examples of their interpretations and observations on Shakespeare's plays, most of which have been unknown to, or ignored by, subsequent scholars and editors. For most Shakespeareans, the chief interest may be, as I found, in the devotion given to the bard during this period of history, the masses of notes and commentary in the huge editions as well as elsewhere. Sherbo devotes a chapter to each...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 268-269
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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