Hamlet Had an Uncle: A Comedy of Honor is a Shakespearean satire by James Branch Cabell, first published in 1940. Cabell had incubated a Shakespeare satire for decades, and based his tale on the Saxo Grammaticus, an epic saga that recounts the story of the mythic Hamlet.
Though he later gained widespread acclaim as a pioneering writer of fantasy fiction, James Branch Cabell's early novels are largely realistic and dryly humorous in tone. The Rivet in Grandfather's Neck, which unfolds in early-twentieth-century Virginia, is a comedy of manners set among the upper echelons of Richmond high society.
Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice is a 1919 fantasy book by James Branch Cabell - the eighth among some fifty-two books written by this author - which gained fame (or notoriety, in the view of some) shortly after its publication. The eponymous hero, who considers himself a "monstrous clever fellow", embarks on a journey through ever more fantastic realms, even to hell and heaven. Everywhere he goes, he winds up seducing the local women, even the Devil's wife.
The darkly comic allegory Jurgen caused quite a stir when it was originally published, with several jurisdictions deeming it obscene and calling for it to be pulled from store shelves. After his wife mysteriously vanishes, middle-aged pawnbroker Jurgen sets off on a not-so-heroic quest to find her, traveling through a series of strange lands in the process.
The word "domnei" refers to the ritualized devotion that knights were required to display toward their ladies in the medieval period. James Branch Cabell's novel of the same title explores the concept in a rich, meditative look at femme fatale Melicent and the ultimately ruinous sparring her love inspires among her coterie of husbands, knights, and suitors.
James Branch Cabell's career was short-lived - his works fit neatly within the 1920s literary escapist culture and then quickly declined in popularity as the author veered away from the fantasy niche. In his heyday, Cabell garnered praise from several of his contemporaries such as H. L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis. Lewis even acknowledged Cabell's successful "Jurgen" in his 1930 Nobel Prize address. "Jurgen" is certainly Cabell's most famous novel, published in 1919, and it tells the story of a middle-aged man on a journey through fantastic realms, where he meets and seduces beautiful women of fiction and myth - including the Devil's wife. The book garnered attention as it was charged with obscenity in a case that reached the New York Supreme Court. Cabell and his publisher won the case, and the author was deemed a literary avant garde, who tested conventional social boundaries and opposed the forces of puritanical repression.
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