Shakespeare’s Pastoral Comedy

Thomas McFarland, Shakespeare’s Pastoral Comedy (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1972)

Summary from the Publisher:

Thomas McFarland presents a personal theory of comedy which shows a wide knowledge of comic theory and practice, the origins and nature of the comic vision, the pastoral, the pastoral elegy, and the golden age. He deftly draws together the various elements and demonstrates how the blending of the pastoral with the comic allows the inclusion of religious concerns to be a natural part of what is initially a socially oriented art form.

McFarland argues that Shakespeare’s use of the pastoral is not just a fanciful game of veiled references to the court of Elizabeth but a strengthening and deepening of comedy itself. This process was possible because of a fundamental affinity between the realm of comedy and the realm of pastoral. As McFarland observes, “The alliance of comedy and pastoral realizes what neither mode could adequately achieve by itself: the representation of paradise.”

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