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      The Pleasure in/of the Text : About the Joys and Perversities of Reading 

      Tragicomic Pleasure and Tickling-Teasing Oscillation in John Marston’s Antonio Plays

      Peter Lang

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          The source of delight springing from the ‘tragicomic’ is a puzzle with no easy solution. It works with elements from both comedy and tragedy, frequently highlighting rather than downplaying incongruity. Incongruity has itself been seen as a trigger for the comic. Paul Lewis sees ‘humour as one of three primary responses to incongruity – the other two being curiosity and fear’. The tragicomic seems however to play upon all three chords. Alenka Zupančič claims of ‘the genre of tragicomedy’ that it ‘takes place within the tragic paradigm’ and is ‘tragedy’s comedy’, ‘essentially a subgenre, or even a successor, of tragedy’. Giambattista Guarini, in contrast, identified tragicomedy as taking from ‘comedy’ ‘its happy reversals, and above all the comic order’. This chapter, however, focuses on tragicomedy as striking instead a delicate balance between genres, drawing upon both, often keeping both in sight. Its peculiar pleasure springs from its edgy (and double-edged) instability and uncertainty – a precarious combination, already leaning towards excess on either side. Focusing on John Marston’s Antonio plays (c.1600), parodic revenge tragicomedies written for the Children of Paul’s boy-actor company, this chapter will consider the pleasure derived from the comic dimension and that derived from the tragic. Particular attention will be given to the tempering of both in the ‘tragicomic’ interplay – which modifies both and produces a particular ‘teasing’ pleasure of its own, through parody and the evasion of catharsis.

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