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Conflicting Contracts

  • Nicholas Grene

Abstract

Inflexibility Bergson thought to be the basic, the essential, comic sin. His book Le Rire isolates the origin of laughter in a central antithesis between the mechanical, the rigid, and the systematic, on the one hand, and the organic, the flexible, the accidental, on the other. This central concept is attractive in that it seems to comprehend a very wide range of different comic patterns, and can be interpreted at a number of different levels. Those, for example, who assert their individual will to control are frequently subjected to comic mockery. The living instincts of an Agnès escape the arbitrary schooling of Arnolphe; the peremptory father-figures of comedy are perennially outwitted by the younger generation assisted by the infinitely agile tricky slave. The instance of Arnolphe, alternatively, might be related to the paradigm of theory against practice. Comedy is basically anti-theoretical. The whole comic tribe of doctors, pedants, learned ladies, is always falling into the pits dug for them by the actual. In the very broadest terms, comedy can be seen to be an assertion of life itself against all life-deniers. The précieuses ridicules, the King of Navarre’s academy, are ridiculous in so far as they attempt to reject their own natural impulses. Jonson’s Morose would shut out all noise, the audible evidence of vitality.

Keywords

Comic Controller Comic Contract Happy Ending Comic Pattern Ascetic Ideal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Ramon Fernandez, La Vie de Molière (Paris 1929),Google Scholar
  2. René Jasinski, Molière et Le Misanthrope (Paris 1951).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lettre à D’Alembert sur les spectacles (Paris 1935).Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    See René Robert, ‘Des commentaires de première main sur les chefs-d’oeuvre les plus discutés de Molière’, Revue des Sciences Humaines 30 (1956), 19–49.Google Scholar
  5. 18.
    Mary Lascelles, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure (London 1953).Google Scholar
  6. 20.
    Rosalind Miles, The Problem of Measure for Measure (London 1976), p. 229.Google Scholar
  7. 21.
    David L. Stevenson, The Achievement of Measure for Measure (Ithaca, N.Y, 1966), p. 128. Stevenson devotes a whole chapter of his book to the demonstration of the weaknesses of the allegorical interpretation of the play.Google Scholar
  8. 24.
    Marvin Rosenberg, ‘Shakespeare’s Fantastic Trick: Measure for Measure’, Sewanee Review 80 (1972), 51 – 72.Google Scholar
  9. 26.
    Harriett Hawkins, Likenesses of Truth (Oxford 1972), p. 54.Google Scholar
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    David L. Stevenson ‘Design and Structure in Measure for Measure’, ELH 23 (1956), 256 – 278, reprinted in Measure for Measure Casebook, ed. C. K. Stead (London and Basingstoke 1971), p. 215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 29.
    The most convincing argument for this point of view is that of Lawrence W. Hyman in ‘The Unity of Measure for Measure’, Modern Language Quarterly 36 (1975), 3 – 20. He claims that in the play ‘we see sexuality as the source of life, whereas its absence, chastity, leads to death. Neither the sexuality nor the life to which it leads is necessarily good or desirable, and hardly ever do we see sexuality or its results as anything but sinful or shameful. But sexuality is the only force for life. Virtue, on the other hand, arising from chastity and being enforced by Justice, may often seem heroic and desirable, but it always results in death’.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 32.
    A. D. Nuttall ‘ Measure for Measure: Quid Pro Quo?’ Shakespeare Studies 4 (1968), 231 – 51.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nicholas Grene 1980

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  • Nicholas Grene

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