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Lovers, Clowns, and Fairies

An Essay on Comedies

Through dreams and shadows and strangeness, through blinding charms and eye-opening counter-charms, through moments of mortification and laughter—thus Stuart M. Tave traces the journey of the lovers, clowns, and fairies who populate comedies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Waiting for Godot. Tave avoids the pitfalls of theory, taking instead a close look at particular works to give us a sense of the relations between certain dramas and novels that are called comedies. The result is a wonderfully readable book that renews our delight in the enchanting possibilities of literature.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in its "perfection," is Tave’s point of departure. Its characters fall neatly into the three groups of Tave’s title and fulfill to perfection their functions of desire, foolishness, and power. From the magical concord of Shakespeare’s resolution, Tave moves to works whose character face ever greater difficulties in reaching a happy conclusion. From Jonson and Austen to Chekhov and Beckett, he meets comedies on their own terms, illuminating the complex and individual genius of each. A masterpiece of practical criticism, Lovers, Clowns, and Fairies rediscovers the pleasure of reading comedies.

290 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 1993

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Table of Contents

1. A league without the town: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
2. These mountains make you dream of women: Man and Superman
3. What are men to rocks and mountains? Pride and Prejudice
4. All beyond High Park’s a desert: The Man of the Mode
5. Bevil Junior’s lodgings: The Conscious Lovers
6. A league below the city: Measure for Measure
7. To the hospital of the Incurabili: Volpone
8. The wrong time to give a dance: The Cherry Orchard
A pause
9. Getting forwards in two different journies together: Tristram Shandy

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