Two Plays in Search of an Audience

  • Nicholas Grene


Molière’s Dom Juan and Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida are the sort of plays for which the critical case-book might have been invented.1 No-one can agree about anything in either of them, except that they are difficult to understand. They have every variety of problem on which criticism and scholarship thrive: textual problems, a peculiar stage-history, difficulties of authorial intentions and generic classification. Given that this study is based on a notion of the comic contract in which attitudes are agreed, these two plays which invite a bewildering range of different responses, would hardly seem suitable cases for treatment as comedies. It appears to be the outstanding feature of both Dom Juan and Troilus and Cressida to leave any audience doubtful of where they are intended to stand. Yet if we presuppose that Molière and Shakespeare intended us to stand some where, that the plays are not merely incoherent creative accidents, then it is worth trying to establish the sort of audience contract they imply.


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  1. 2.
    Daniel Seltzer ed. Troilus and Cressida (Signet Shakespeare, N.Y. 1963), pp. xxv–xxvi.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Richard D. Fly ‘ “Suited in Like Conditions as our Argument”: Imitative form in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida’ Studies in English Literature 15 (1975), 281.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
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    See, for example, Oscar J. Campbell, Comicall Satyre and Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (San Marino, Calif. 1938).Google Scholar
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© Nicholas Grene 1980

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  • Nicholas Grene

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