The UVic Writer's Guide
Comedy depicts humorous incidents in which protagonists are faced
with moderate difficulties but overcome them and the play ends
happily. Instead of being isolated like tragic heroes, comic protagonists
are comfortable with their society, or become so; and their success
is brought about through cooperation with others. Traditional
comedy often culminates in marriage. In "high" comedy, human folly
arouses intellectual amusement as well as engaging the emotions;
whereas "low" comedy arouses laughter through jokes and clowning
that have more appeal to the emotions than the intellect.
Some of the major types of comedy are:
- satirical comedy, which generally ridicules human folly and associated political,
social or moral problems;
- the comedy of manners, depicting the romantic intrigues of a sophisticated upper class,
including witty repartee and humorous social blundering;
- romantic comedy,involving idealized romantic love, as in romance);
- black comedy,which induces laughter as a kind of defense mechanism when a situation,
dispassionately considered, would be simply horrifying; and
- farce,which depends upon ridiculous situations, exaggerated character
types, coarse humour, and horseplay for its comic effects.
- satirical comedy;Aristophanes' Acharnians (425 B.C.) and Ben Jonson's Volpone(1606), both of which satirize greed;
- comedy of manners;Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost (1588-95) and the later works of Congreve and Sheridan; romantic
comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream(1594-96) and Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay(ca. 1590);
- black comedy: Marlowe's The Jew of Malta(1590), Joe Orton's Loot (1965), Joseph Heller's Catch-22(1961); and
- farce: Charley's Aunt(1892) and most twentieth-century sitcoms.
(See also Wit, Humour, Irony, Satire .)
In the comic mode, there are often comic episodes in an otherwise tragic work.
Famous example include the Gravedigger scene in Hamletand the Porter scene in Macbeth. The term comic relief is often applied to these episodes, but "relief" is seldom the
actual effect of the passages--more often such passages are suspenseful
or ironical, its humour is black.
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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria,
This page updated September 19, 1995