Abstract

Abstract:

This essay juxtaposes vicious pranks in François Rabelais’s Pantagruel (1532) and William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1601) in order to describe a form of comic violence that functions as a knowledge claim about its target. In each case, the event of injury conveys an eager insistence on the truth of some taken-for-granted assertion about the injured party. I discuss the role of comic atmosphere in encouraging such performative incuriosity, and I describe those strategies by which cruel pranksters enlist the participation of readers and spectators. Ultimately, I show that Shakespeare parts ways with Rabelais by undermining epistemological security, the desire for which helps motivate both the prank and whatever affirmation it elicits from witnesses.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0383
Print ISSN
0039-3738
Pages
pp. 423-450
Launched on MUSE
2019-07-08
Open Access
No
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