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I have decided, after all of an hour reading "Shakespeare and Carnival," edited by Robert Knowles, that I have the answer. Or, at least, part of an answer. Yes, the Bard's plots are simple. But Shakespeare takes great care within his works to give readers heteroglossia, or more than one expressed viewpoint. His heroes are flawed. His villains are often sympathetic. And the range of side characters, all of whom have opinions of their own (even lowly soldiers in Henry V), is remarkable. He creates dialogues so that there is never one way to see the situation, any situation, in his plays. In this way, Shakespeare questions the authority of all his characters as they repeatedly contradict each other, and often--with the comical and sometimes tragic inclusion of plays within his plays--he contradicts himself in true meta fashion.
This is called carnivalization, a word referring to the medieval festivals peasantry would throw, during which they lampooned the aristocracy with abandon while drinking altogether too much alcohol. Their celebrations often culminated with the crowning of a fool king to show the ultimate rejection of traditional authority. Shakespeare's obsession with ascending thrones reflects this tradition, and it emphasizes all the means with which he refused to provide one right answer. Through exaggeration,, sheer tumult of action, and what Phyllis Gorfain labels as a "recurrent pattern of momentum and interruption" which "assaults orthodox order" and reinterprets "reality through representation" (156), Shakespeare produces the aura of the carnival in which anything goes and nothing is what it seems. To simplify, Shakespeare is an author of shadows. His shadows define his light. There is a doubleness to his truths, a conversation even about the simplest of matters, from the Dauphin of France and his servant arguing over a horse, to Hamlet throwing a play depicting his father's assassination.
In my paper, I am going to argue that Shakespeare used carnivalization to mock the authority figures of his world, but also to mock those like himself, who did the ridiculing. After all, do the lampooners within our modern society (think of SNL, internet chat forums, etc.) know the truth any better than those they mock? I doubt it. But in the formation of the dialogue, what is established? Merely that none of us imperfect mortals know which way is up. We're all faulty. We're all in shadow. And this paves the way for the element of the divine. This is why Shakespeare is so religious, why it's so easy--even in the most pagan of his works--to see Christ, God, and Christian values. Because he shows the absence of truth through carnivalization, he prepares his reader for the return of the true King.
Gorfain, Phyllis. "Play and the Carnivalesque in Hamlet." Shakespeare and Carnival, edited by Robert Knowles, Macmillan Press, pp.152-176