Shakespeare in Jest  book cover
1st Edition

Shakespeare in Jest

ISBN 9780367322458
Published September 9, 2021 by Routledge
194 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Shakespeare in Jest draws fascinating parallels between Shakespeare's humour and contemporary humour. Indira Ghose argues that while many of Shakespeare's jokes no longer work for us, his humour was crucial in shaping comedy in today's entertainment industry. 

The book looks at a wide variety of plays and reads them in conjunction with examples from contemporary culture, from stand-up comedy to late night shows. Ghose shows the importance of jokes, the functions of which are remarkably similar in Shakespeare’s time and ours. Shakespeare's wittiest characters are mostly women, who use wit to puncture male pretensions and to acquire cultural capital. Clowns and wise fools use humour to mock their betters, while black humour trains the spotlight on the audience, exposing our collusion in the world it skewers. In a discussion of the ethics of humour, the book uncovers striking affinities between Puritan attacks on the theatre and contemporary attacks on comedy. 

An enjoyable and accessible read, this lively book will enlighten and entertain students, researchers, and general readers interested in Shakespeare, humour, and popular culture.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. Joking Relationships  2. Women and Wit  3. Clowns and Wise Fools  4. Black Humour  5. Humour and Ethics

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Indira Ghose is Professor of English at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. She has published widely on early modern wit, jesting, and laughter.


Shakespeare in Jest offers a pacy, readable account of humour and laughter in Shakespeare’s works, from the repartee of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing to the porter of Dunsinane Castle in Macbeth. Five well-organized chapters cover joking relationships, witty women, clowns and fools, black humour and the question of ethics. In each, Indira Ghose ably sketches out an early-modern theatrical context with a detailed and demystifying account of how a particular kind of jesting works in a specific play. . . . overall it is an excellent, enjoyable and stimulating introduction to the field.’ Emma Smith, TLS