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In Shakespeare’s Work, One Sees Intentional Artifice – One Sees That He Is Not In Earnest, But That He Is Playing With Words” Leo Tolstoy Notes

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In

Shakespeare's

work,

one

sees

intentional

artifice

-

one

sees

that

he

is

not

in


earnest,

but

that

he

is

playing

with

words"

Leo

Tolstoy


Shakespeare's

use

of

wordplay

is

present

in

each

of

his

plays

and

reveals

not

only

the


aural

emphasis

of

Renaissance

drama

but

also

contemporary

concerns

with

truth,


representation

and

interpretation.

From

the

comedies

where

double

meaning

allows

for


bawdy

jokes

and

insubordination

from

cheeky

servants

and

clowns,

to

the

tragedies

in


which

"double

knavery"

is

the

undoing

of

virtuous

and

powerful

men,

wordplay

is

present.


Whether

this

can

be

seen

as

'intentional

artifice'

is

debatable,

it

seems

more

prominent

for


Shakespeare

to

use

wordplay

as

a

way

of

exploring

artifice

and

falsehood

and

the


presentation

of

it,

rather

part

of

his

aesthetic

intentions.

Wordplay,

that

is

the

use

of

puns,


polysemy

and

ambiguous

terms,

features

not

only

to

enrich

dialogue

or

the

assert


psychology

of

a

particular

character

but

as

a

means

of

creating

and

driving

plot

and

form.


In

The

Merchant

of

Venice

(1597),

Othello

(1603)

and

Macbeth

(1606),

specific

acts

of


linguistic

interpretation

are

used

as

the

basis

for

dramatic

action

and

to

create

a

specific


mood

with

in

the

play.


The

linguistic

structure

of

punning

-

that

is

the

employment

of

a

double

meaning

whereby


one

can

say

one

thing

and

mean

another,

often

something

either

sexual

or

subversive,

is


freed

from

the

normal

rules

of

appropriateness

by

deniability;

one

can

simply

claim

that

it


was

the

more

virtuous

meaning

that

was

intended.

This

structure

can

be

seen

more


broadly

in

the

plays

in

which

Shakespeare

is

most

'earnestly'

concerned

with

language.


For

instance,

In

The

Merchant

of

Venice,

the

concurrent

plots

of

the

Jew's

bond

in

Venice


and

the

caskets

in

Belmont,

both

contain

and

emphasis

the

importance

of

interpretation.

It


is

significant

also

that

the

'environments'

of

these

two

plot

stands,

one

of

mercantile

'real


life'

Venice,

and

the

other

more

romantic

setting

of

Belmont

underline

the

importance

of

1

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