This book makes ample use of approaches to language within linguistics, semiotics, the philosophy of language and sociology, in order to do justice to the subtlety of Shakespeare's verbal artistry. Keir Elam adopts a fresh approach to the language of Shakespeare's comedies, considering it not simply as 'style' but as the principal dramatic and comic substance of the plays. Traditional analysis of the language as 'diction', 'expression' or 'verbal structure' is not adequate to describe the range and importance of linguistic functions in these plays. This book shows that in Shakespearean comedy language, or rather 'discourse', language in use, is always a dynamic, active protagonist of the drama. The author explores the extraordinary gamut of verbal activities or 'language-games' that contribute to the rich rhetorical make-up of the comedies. The historical framework complements the application of critical theory which will assure a readership among students and teachers of Shakespeare as well as those interested in liguistics and semiotics.