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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsShakespeare was also a great humorous writer, and wrote more comedies than tragedies, almost twice as many, in fact. As well as including many jokes in his plays, Shakespeare created some extraordinary comic characters. For example, in his comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream," there's a character called Bottom. At the start of the play, he looks like a normal man. However, later on, he's turned into a creature with the body of a man, but the head of a donkey, and Bottom provides much humour throughout the play. Shakespeare's comedies often feature unexpected events, such as mistaken identity. In other words, characters not knowing who other people really are, with surprising and funny results.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 secondWe'll see this happening in the two Shakespeare comedies that we're going to look at on this course, "Much Ado About Nothing" in week four, and "The Tempest" in week five. In "The Tempest," Antonio had never expected to see his brother Prospero again, yet they are magically reunited, 12 years later, on a desert island. And Shakespeare's dialogue can be very funny. In "Much Ado About Nothing," two of the main characters, Beatrice and Benedick, argue and insult each other constantly, which is the source of much humour. I love the central plot of Beatrice and Benedick, and their love, their hate and their love. And their wit, their war of wit, is so fun to watch.

Skip to 1 minute and 51 secondsAnd the nastier they can be to each other, the better. You want them to be horrible to each other, because it is so great.

Shakespeare's comedies

Shakespeare wrote more comedies than any other kind of play.

In our course, we’ll look at two Shakespeare comedies: The Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing. In this video, Anthony and actress Susan Hingley explain some of the typical features of Shakespearean comedies.

Read this definition from Wikipedia:

“Comedy”, in its Elizabethan usage, had a very different meaning from modern comedy. A Shakespearean comedy is one that has a happy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters, and a tone and style that is more light-hearted than Shakespeare’s other plays.

  • Which other Shakespeare comedies do you know?
  • Have you seen any of his comedies?

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This video is from the free online course:

Exploring English: Shakespeare

British Council