Early modern humour
in Shakespeare and laughter
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This chapter focuses on changes in early modern humour. The first few decades of the professional theatre had been dominated by star comedians such as Dick Tarlton and Will Kemp. In the 1590s, tragedians took over. A shift in taste is discernible, away from the pratfalls and improvisational repartee of the early generation of comedians. Shakespearean clowns are largely replaced by wise fools, quibbles and puns take the place of malapropisms and scurrilous humour. A similar development might be traced in the burgeoning genre of jestbook literature. A closer look at Twelfth Night reveals that, in William Shakespeare's last romantic comedy, he incorporates many of the trends in laughter outlined so far.

Shakespeare and laughter

A cultural history

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