• Old Wives' Humour: George Peele's The Old Wives Tale

    Murat Öğütcü (see profile)
    CLCS Renaissance and Early Modern, GS Drama and Performance, LLC Shakespeare
    Drama, Sixteenth century, Seventeenth century, Comedy, Theater, History
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    george peele, old wives' tale, humour, Early modern drama, Comedy (genre), Theatre history
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    George Peele’s The Old Wives Tale (published 1595) was performed by the Queen’s Men in the 1580s. Initially, the play has been dismissed by several critics as a vulgar and cheap entertainment without much value. Yet, the metadramatic techniques employed in the play sheds light to how humour could be effectively triggered in the respective period and beyond. The play combines storytelling, verse/prose romances and dramatic form by satirising and parodying each through the use of several plays-within-the-play. One of the characters, Madge, the Old Wife, tells stories to her guests. The characters in these fairy-tale-like stories, however, come to life and appear on the stage as she relates them. Knights, damsels-in-distress, supernatural villains, monsters and magic are employed throughout the several sub-plots of the plays-within-the play. From the standpoint of literary criticism, the text might appear too shallow. Yet, from a rather performative perspective, the play, performed by the best of actors under the protection of Elizabeth I, provides several opportunities to trigger laughter in the audience. Therefore, this chapter will analyse how Peele’s Old Wives’ Tale emphasises the performative aspect of humour in the Late Elizabethan Period. Keywords: George Peele, The Old Wives Tale, Queen’s Men, Humour, Late Elizabethan Period
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    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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