Richard Hillman
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Tragicomedy – and beyond?
The view through French spectacles
in The Shakespearean comic and tragicomic
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This culminating chapter shifts the focus to Shakespeare’s late plays, notably the generically pivotal Pericles (almost certainly a collaboration with George Wilkins) and that supreme instance of Shakespearean tragicomic romance, The Winter’s Tale. The now-dominant critical view of Italian influence is qualified with reference to the diverse kinds and origins of tragicomedy in English, including those with French analogues and those mediated by French sources, notably French versions of the antique novel. The redaction of the Apollonius of Tyre story incorporated by François de Belleforest in his Histoires tragiques receives close attention as an intertext for both Pericles and The Winter’s Tale. Its importance extends to recuperating from the antique romance tradition a notion of tragicomedy as being, in effect, tragédie à fin heureuse. Shakespeare’s use of Michel de Montaigne’s Essais in the translation of John Florio is also reviewed from this perspective – not merely the well-known passage from ‘Of the Caniballes’ adapted in The Tempest, but several textual traces from other essays, previously unnoticed, that arguably shed light on the movement in Shakespeare’s final plays (including Cymbeline and The Two Noble Kinsmen, a collaboration with John Fletcher) towards a generic synthesis mirroring an all-inclusive vision of human experience.

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