What is a comedy? Broadly defined, any amusing and entertaining work.
Comedy Vs. Tragedy Comedy often contrasts tragedy. How? Comedies end happily (often in marriage), present the “lighter side” of life. Comedies generally present experiences of ordinary people in common language. Tragedies end horribly(often in death). Tragedies often depict noble character who use loftier literary language (i.e. speak in iambic pentameter).
Other Elements of Comedy… Humor: an essential element of comedy is humor/wit. Comic Effect: often achieved through incongruity (something is out of place or not right). Specifically, physical, verbal, or conceptual elements may be incongruous – irony is often used to achieve incongruity. Verbal Irony: when a character says something but means something else. Sarcasm an extreme form of irony with intention to hurt another. Situational Irony: when something is expected to happen and something else occurs. Dramatic Irony: when characters of a play are unaware of something while the audience knows.
Comedy Categorization There are several ways to categorize comedies. Here are two: 1. Romantic 2. Satiric 3. Rogue Or… 1. High Comedy 2. Low Comedy * Remember, a story may not always fit perfectly into one category.
Romantic, Satiric, and Rogue Romantic: have a pair(s) of lovers at the center of interest (i.e. When Harry Met Sally) Satiric: have a critical purpose. Attack philosophic or political notions through ridicule. Satires may also ridicule those who depart from societal norms Rogue: entertain through antics and behavior of miscreants.
High Comedy Vs. Low Comedy High Comedy: rely on intellectual issues, viewpoints, and incongruities between them make humor. Often Satiric. Point out humanity’s weaknesses. (i.e. The Daily Show) Low Comedy: rely on the crude or the obvious for comic effect. Include situation comedies, farces, and slapstick. Situation comedies: have characters whose absurdities are revealed through intricacies of plot (includes many television sitcoms) Farce: based on ludicrous (foolish/out of place) situations. Often times in instances of mistaken identity. Slapstick: rely on funny physical action to get audience laughing.
Specific Elements Found in Shakespearian Comedies Plots are unlikely or not true to life. Plots often rely on a fantastic hypothesis, event, or coincidence. Use of disguises and several instances of mistaken identity. Used to complicate plot. Audience finds humor in the dramatic irony. Heroes and heroines are figures of romance, beauty, wit, and charm. Heroines are rarely satirized and often dominate the comedy. Wit: puns, quips, repartee, and wordplay are everywhere. Musical language and actual song Happy ending – often in marriage.
Works Cited Murfin, Ross. and Ray, Supryia. The Bedford Glossory of Critical and Literary Terms. Bedford: Boston, 2009. Print. “Shakespearian Comedy.” Web. 25 Oct. 2012.