The comedies of William Shakespeare, although written centuries ago, are not at all frivolous and have great literary value as they serve not as not only effective but also realistic straightforward portrayals of the universals themes of romantic love and lust, as seen in the realistic comedy “The Taming of the Shrew” and the romantic comedy “Twelfth Night”, which still apply in today’s society.
Frivolous” is defined as “Of little value, trivial”, “comedy” as “The genre of dramatic literature dealing with the comic or with the serious light or satirical manner” and “Literary Value” as “The relative worth or importance for (a piece of) Literature. ” (Agnes, 373) This is proven in the “Taming of the Shrew”, in an approach to get Shakespeare’s message across that how true love, “the deep, tender, unchanging feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person” (Lothian, 130) is often misunderstood when compared to courtly love, “an idealised and often illicit form of love”, which is often mistaken for the former.
He achieves this by comparing it with how true love grows through understanding between two people and how people change once the “courting” is over. Shakespeare uses the examples of how Katherina and Petruchio seem more likely to enjoy a happy marriage, as the love between them is true, as compared to courtly love, akin to how Luciento won the love of Bianca through deceit, and masking his real personality, resulting in Bianca not being as happy as Katherina after marriage. This is shown through Bianca’s refusal to come when called in the last act, when Shakespeare suggests that this marriage will be hard on Lucentio.
Bianca might turn out to be as stubborn in her role as a wife as she was mild in her role as a maid. Thus, in his last few lines, Petruccio observes, “We three are married, but you two are sped” (V. ii. 189), implying that Lucentio seem destined for unhappiness in marriage given the disobedient natures of Bianca. Petruccio fought tooth and nail to finally win Kate, but he worked hard only because he wanted her to truly allow herself to accept, or choose, obedience in married life.
Lucentio, deceived by Bianca’s meekness and flirtatious behavior when they were single, now finds that it is “a harsh hearing when women are froward” (V. ii. 187). This can be linked to the fact that true love is often confused with courtly love even to date, as shown by how people cannot get along well with each other after marriage because they befuddled true love with romantic love, even ending up in divorces as a result, hence showing that the comedies of Shakespeare are not frivolous.
Also, Shakespeare portrays physical appearance and first impressions as important in contributing to both romantic and true love, then, a trait that is true even to date, hence proving his comedies to be not at all frivolous and of great literary value. In “Twelfth Night”, Shakespeare portrays two types of love between lovers, romantic, the “imaginary but impractical love” (Coleman, 19) and true love. In both portrayals of love, the “love at first sight” symptom is a typical condition, by which all the lovers are stricken.
For example, when Orsino first saw Olivia, he thought she “purged the air of pestilence”. Also, Viola is deeply in love with Orsino even before three days have passed. When Olivia complains that “even so quickly may one catch the plague”, Sebastian instantly falls in love with Olivia. (Nelson-Cave, 154-155). Also, “Twelfth Night” is a comedy that is of great literary value as it gets Shakespeare’s messages of love across effectively and easily as he creates a light-hearted scenerio in which everything is to the extreme and perfect.
This enables him to be focused on empathizing on how courtly or romantic love is often confused with true love. He deliberately plants love around Viola with poetic charm and touches it with delicate irony, a trait evident in the examples when this atmosphere filled with love not only affects Olivia, it also affects the Duke. The plot is such that Viola has Orsino and Olivia finds a substitute for Casario in the end, with Shakespeare achieving all these without “provoking criticism by any realistic treatment of the story’s improbabilities” (White, 139).
He does all of these through his style of writing, plot and content, and this in itself proves that his comedies are not at all frivolous and of great literary value. Also, Shakespeare portrays lust in a highly straightforward manner in “Twelfth Night” by presenting it through including more sexual jokes and innuendos than other plays, hence making of great literary value. Sexual matters are also openly discussed between the lower orders, and they exist as a strong undercurrent between the nobles.
For example, Malvolio takes seriously the possibility of trading a steward’s servility for sexual service with his mistress-“She that would alter services with thee”-has, as Maria promised, been gulled into a ‘nayword’. From here, we could see how realistic Shakespeare is in getting his ideas of lust present in a relationship across, and it is through this realistic approach that makes his comedies sincere as readers can then understand what he really thinks of lust instead of avoiding this topic, and it is this sincerity that makes his comedies of great literary value.
It is not fair to say that Shakespeare’s comedies are frivolous and of little literary value, like some critiques, which mentioned that Shakespeare demeans women through his portrayal of love, with the mindset that a wife is not supposed to answer her husband’s insolence with insolence and threat with threats, and has to bide by her husband’s wants and needs if she wants true happiness.
This in itself does not mean that Shakespeare’s plays are of little literary value, as it merely shows the way of thinking back then. His plays are still of literary value as he delivers his messages on love realistically, and it is through a straightforward approach that we can compare with the present that even society had changed, true love will always remain the same.
Hence I conclude that the comedies of William Shakespeare, although written centuries ago, are not at all frivolous and have great literary value as it serves as not only an effective, but also realistic and straightforward portrayal of the universal themes of romantic love and lust as seen in the realistic comedy “The Taming of the Shrew” and the romantic comedy “Twelfth Night”, which still apply in today’s society.