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A Kingdom for a Mirth

Shakespeare's ‘Fatal Cleopatra’ and the Worm's Turn

Roger Stritmatter and Shelly Maycock


This article offers a reading of the famously problematic scene 5.2 of Antony and Cleopatra, in which Cleopatra prepares to meet her death by the bite of the ‘worm’ (5.2.233–290). In this scene, and this scene alone, the Egyptian asp is called by the Anglo-Saxon term ‘worm’ nine times. Repetition, suggests Frankie Rubinstein, may in Shakespeare be a sign of a pun. Samuel Johnson characterised the homophonic resonance of punning as ‘Shakespeare's Fatal Cleopatra’, but Rubinstein insists that for Shakespeare ‘“reason, propriety, and truth” were not sacrificed by the Shakespearean “quibble” but emerge from it’. In Antony and Cleopatra, punning is one key linguistic expression of the play's entwinement with the principles of alchemical transmutation and preference for ‘becoming’ in the ancient dichotomy between being and becoming. As Richard Whalen first proposed in 1991, the ninefold iteration of ‘worm’ in the scene may be a pun on an Aristocratic French name, since the word ‘worm’ in French is Ver.

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Dirk Eitzen

There is a striking divide, in the literature on comedy, between approaches that stress the social functions of humor, including social control and alleviation of social stresses, and approaches that focus on the psychological mechanisms of humor, including incongruity and arousal. These two kinds of approach have proven quite resistant to integration, because they are rooted in fundamentally different understandings of the pleasure of humor. Put simply, the pleasure of the put-down is hard to square with the pleasure of the pun. This article examines new scientific research on humor, including recent brain imaging studies, to see if there is any evidence for an empirical divide. The conclusion, in practical analytical terms, is that when, near the start of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Shaun fails to notice that he is surrounded by zombies, our perception of the inappropriateness of the character's actions and our perception of the playfulness of the depiction are both necessarily involved in our perception of the scene's funniness.

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Andrew Levy

commended mirth, that a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry, and that this should accompany him in his labour all the days of his life which God hath given him under the sun . 16 When I applied my heart

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Emanuel Stelzer

play in an atmosphere of mirth. Elizabeth I herself comes to Nottingham. The members of the community engage in traditional pastimes while the queen grants the charter to the city for the navigation of the Trent. Let us see how the suicide is

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Jasmyn Galley

realization that “it was always [women]… who had the power, the power to give life, the power to keep it” (94). In Highway’s play, female laughter is a sign of empowerment, and the power of motherhood is ultimately reinforced with the triumphant mirth of Hera

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Instrumentalising Media Memories

The Second World War According to Achtung Zelig! (2004)

Maaheen Ahmed

personhood itself as an unremitting succession of activities’. 23 Furthermore, the comic element accompanying zaniness, in keeping with its intense performativity, is somewhat ambiguous, geared for the hollow laugh rather than actual mirth. Émile embodies

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Fat Boys in Gym Class

An Examination of Athleticism in Young Adult Novels Featuring Fat, Cisgender Male Protagonists

Jennifer DuBose

fatness in the past decade, with works such as Diners, Dudes, and Diets by Emily Contois or Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma by Jason Whitesel. This recent increase in scholarship centering the fat man is promising, but it has not

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Vassiliki Markidou

disrupted. As Lady Macbeth tells her husband: ‘You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting / With most admired disorder’ (III.iv.109–10). Indeed, at the sight of the thane’s spectre ‘Macbeth unwittingly discloses his murder of Duncan and Banquo to

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Andrew Sanders

suggest is indeed ‘wariness’ is apparent. Of course, English has a variety of alternative words to ‘happy’. ‘Merry’ – ‘of a thing pleasing, agreeable, delightful’ – is of Germanic origin and is related to the idea of ‘mirth’, although the word is most