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Chapter 4 - Performing Contentment

Communal Affect and Passionate Disconnect in Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Othello

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 December 2022

Paul Joseph Zajac
Affiliation:
McDaniel College
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Summary

Chapter 4 examines the relationship between individual, communal, and political contentment in Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare presents contentment as most successful when shared between selves, whereas an overly possessive attitude toward one’s contentment jeopardizes its existence. As You Like It depicts a commonwealth built upon the bonds between subjects and preserved through mutual contentment. By contrast, the malcontent Iago identifies vulnerabilities in Othello’s understanding of contentedness to destroy his relationships with Desdemona and Venetian society writ large. In As You Like It, communal contentment counteracts the social threat of envy, but in Othello jealousy distorts content beyond the point of recognition or redemption. Shakespeare does not shy away from the challenges to contentment, but he attempts to provide audiences with collective experiences of positive emotion and to unite them in the face of tragedy. Though recent critics have described the Renaissance theatre as an arena for emotional extremes, this chapter broadens our perspective of Shakespearean emotion to include a contentment that shares the stage with other affects.

Type
Chapter
Information
Emotion and the Self in English Renaissance Literature
Reforming Contentment
, pp. 101 - 124
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Performing Contentment
  • Paul Joseph Zajac, McDaniel College
  • Book: Emotion and the Self in English Renaissance Literature
  • Online publication: 15 December 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009271653.005
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  • Performing Contentment
  • Paul Joseph Zajac, McDaniel College
  • Book: Emotion and the Self in English Renaissance Literature
  • Online publication: 15 December 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009271653.005
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Performing Contentment
  • Paul Joseph Zajac, McDaniel College
  • Book: Emotion and the Self in English Renaissance Literature
  • Online publication: 15 December 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009271653.005
Available formats
×