Mirth and Morality of Shakespeare's Holy Fools

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Demonstrates though textual analysis of seven dramas Shakespeare's adaptation of a medieval character type - the holy fool. Fundamentally, the holy fool's mission is to promote harmony and good will by correcting those personality flaws that impede human community. The identification and development of the holy fool as a viable literary device has led to the discovery of a new motif in Shakespeare's drama - the salvific element of play inherent in the role of holy fool as spiritual physician. They demonstrate how art, particularly drama, proves an indispensable tool for illustrating how personal moral choices impact on a society.


"Pyle brings new light and incisive comprehensive interpretation to seven major plays of Shakespeare, including comedies, tragedies, and histories. . . . Dr. Pyle balances research and intensive analysis in order to compare and contrast a vast panoply of characters, ranging from Petruchio, Portia, and Bottom, on the one hand, to Hal, Hamlet, Lear's fool, and Feste, on the other. . . . The inestimable value and validity of Dr. Pyle's approach emerge from discerning the traces of medieval drama in Shakespeare's oeuvre and explaining their integration and adaptation into a richer and more sophisticated dramaturgy. . . . No commentator has provided a more compelling case for such an assertion than Dr. Pyle." - Albert C. Labriola

"Dr. Sandra J. Pyle gives us a new insight into many of his plays so we may now view and understand them in the same manner as the audience of his day viewed and interpreted them. This new insight is the result of the thorough investigation of the lineage of the holy fool and a demonstration of Shakespeare's accommodation of this 'character type' to the sixteenth century stage." - John W. Smeltz

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
List of Illustrations
Foreword by Albert C. Labriola
Introduction: Shakespeare's Medieval Mirth and Morality
The Holy Fool's Prayer
Shakespeare's Holy Fools and Their Priestly Mission
Feste as Curate Exorcises Pride in Twelfth Night
The Fool Scourges Envy in King Lear
Petruchio Combats Anger in The Taming of the Shrew
Physician Heal Thyself - Hamlet, the Clown Prince, Purges Sloth
Portia Prosecutes Avarice in The Merchant of Venice
Prince Hal Foils Gluttony in Henry IV, 1 & 2
Bottom, the Uncourtly Lover, Nullifies Lust in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Dancing with the Holy Fool
Appendix: Translation of "Medicines to Cure the Deadly Sins"
Bibliography and Index

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