Comedy of disguise and mistaken identity
in Shakespeare’s cinema of love
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Conscious disguise and mistaken identity run through most of Shakespeare’s comedies as a theme, and they are central defining aspects of his romantic comedy. Underlying the pattern is a version of love which sees through superficialities to an inner compatibility between characters. It also raises questions of role-playing and its significance in love relationships. All these elements, in some shape or another, also occur regularly in Hollywood romantic comedy, and the disguises may involve not so much gender as in Shakespeare, but social and professional status. The rich impersonate poverty to test love, the poor play roles of higher social status to attract love, but the basic metaphor is as in Shakespeare’s disguised women in As You Like It and Twelfth Night.

Shakespeare’s cinema of love

A study in genre and influence

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