By Patrick Swinden (auth.)
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Additional info for An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Comedies
Far from having as their main object the correction, or at least the identification, of vice, Shakespeare's comedies set out with the quite different purpose of endorsing a sentiment. We are rarely outraged by anything that happens in these plays, if we except Shylock's demand for his pound of flesh, Claudio's rejection of Hero (in Much Ado about Nothing), Bertram's behaviour towards Helena (in All's Well that Ends Well), and The Spi1it of Shakespearean Comedy 21 Leontes' brutality towards Hermione (in The Winter's Tale) and there is something unsatisfactory about all the plays in which these things happen except, perhaps, the last.
P. Wilson guessed that the Quarto is a revision of an earlier version acted at Titchfield, the Earl of Southampton's house in Hampshire. Shakespeare seems to have been cultivating the young Earl's friendship and patronage in the early I5gos; Love's Labour's Lost was probably written during the plague year of I593-4 when the London theatres were closed; and Titchfield was a place where courtly shows must have taken place often: Queen Elizabeth had visited it at least twice, on her progresses of I 569 and I 59 I, and would have expected to be royally entertained.
This, the Induction, is something of a problem. It existed in an earlier play called The Taming of a Shrew which was certainly produced in 1594 (and probably earlier too), and which may be an earlier version, by Shakespeare, of The Shrew that we are looking at now. In our Shrew it ambles along very pleasantly for a couple of scenes and then disappears, apart from a single perfunctory re-emergence at the end of I, i. In A Shrew, it appeared more often and there was an epilogue. In spite of some ingenious justifications by scholars, I think we must conclude that our Induction is unnecessary.
An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Comedies by Patrick Swinden (auth.)