Document Type : Original Article


Assistant Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.


In order to insist upon discursive reconfiguration of violence in Shakespeare’s comedies, critics bring examples of civic and political violence, and matrimonial/domestic and erotic manipulations in plays’ real and fantastic worlds. In plays such as The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the manifests of non-physical violence could be identified in an epitomical manner, and afterwards one could see how such manifests of violence could be recognized in Shakespeare’s other comedies.
Approach and Methodology
Considering the reconfiguration of violence and elimination of physical violence, the present study reads violence in Shakespeare’s aforementioned comedies as a discursive violence. For devising a definition of this kind of violence, it uses Slavoj Zizek’s ideas on the issue of violence and how he defines violence discursively. In his definition, Zizek discriminates between the objective violence, which comes from impersonal, exclusive, systematic and so-called objective nexuses of power and subjective violence, which comes from subjective rendition of each individual from implementation of violence in sites for which objective violence has not defined any containment strategy. In the case of subjective violence, intentions and motivations behind violence are murky and uncontainable, giving its operation the necessary fluidity. While discussing the manifests of subjective violence, the present study finds instances of what Zizek calls to be antimonies; discursive points around which two rational arguments can be represented without any promise of resolution.
Literature Review
In the first part entitled “Objective and Subjective Violence in Shakespeare’s Comedies”, the study discerns between two kinds of violence in Shakespeare’s comedies through the utilization of Zizek’s notions on violence in Violence: Six Sideway Reflections. In “The Antimony of Victimization in Shakespeare’s Comedies”, the study utilizes Zizek’s notion of antimony next to notions of other critics such as Dympna Callaghan in Shakespeare without Women, Natasha Korda in “Household Kates: Domesticating Commodities in The Taming of the Shrew, Emily Detmer in “Civilizing Subordination: Domestic Violence and The Taming of the Shrew”, Michael Taylor in “The Darker Purpose of A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Lisa S. Starks-Estes in Violence, Trauma and Virtus so that a less optimistic interpretation of seemingly emancipative and empowering moments for the marginalized characters – or the plays’ others – could be represented, which in turn, could show the workings of non-physical yet effective violence and subjugation against such characters. Finally, in “Discursive Laughter in William Shakespeare’s Comedies”, the present study brings Edward Berry’s discussion of Carnivalesque and Hobbesian laughter and locate Shakespearean laughter in the middle of them.
In the present study, it is indicated that the domain of the marginalized characters of Shakespeare’s comedies is in a site where the objective violence has no authority and it is subjects themselves that need to inflict the violence on them on the basis of their rendition of it. Zizek observes that these renditions are affected by what is not included in the symbolic order of the objective violence and that is why Petruchio starts not behaving in a physically violent manner, Shylock is not treated in a conventional legal term and Hermia and Helena are not contained through rational means of recuperation. It is as if all of these characters need to be dealt within antimonic sites where every possibility of resilience and liberation can be recuperated through subjective interpretations of the suppressors.


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