What is meant by comedy? Characteristics of comedy
What is comedy : Comedy deals with a theme in a light amusing manner and gives it a happy ending.
Write a short note on the types of comedies.
Comedy deals with a theme in a light amusing manner and gives it a happy ending. As a comedy is a stage-play of light, amusing, often satirical, character, chiefly representing a romantic or realistic story with a happy ending. The principal aim of comedy is to amuse with verbal humour, music or dancing. But modern comedy is also instructive. According to a well known critic George Meredith, comedy appeals to the emotions; comedy often concerns the social group while tragedy concerned the fate of the individual. The elements of comedy are: A story with a happy ending, light amusing style; humour exciting smiles and laughs, principal aim to amuse the audience with humour, music, etc.
Characteristics of Comedy
- Comedy deals with the light events of life. The events may be either domestic or social.
- It deals with the bright aspect of life.
- In a comedy, the characters act on democratic principle of equality, liberty and fraternity. None of the characters dominates the other characters.
- Comedy deals with types and classes and species. The characters it produced are not individuals.
- In a comedy, the dramatist does not present any problem. However, some comedies have some complications which need wise solutions. Some of Shakespeare’s plays namely ‘Measure for Measure’, ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’ are problem-plays.
- In a comedy, the playwright seeks to analyse the character from without and not from within.
- The comedy writer presents an atmosphere of love and romance. For a while, the audience is relieved of the harsh realities of life.
- A comedy abounds in songs, music, jokes and fun.
- Laughter or mirth is provoked by humour of situation or humour of dialogue.
- In a comedy, there is usually a clown who plays on words, and cuts jokes. He is known as a fool but he is the wisest man.
- The main aim of comedy is to create mirth and laughter. Hence, the characters are made worse than what they are. In order to achieve this aim, u playwright creates characters who are drunkards, loves, fools, eccentrics. Obscene language and scenes are too, sometimes perceptible in a comedy.
Ridiculous dress, physical or mental incongruity, may provide laughter. Malvolio, Falstaff, Touchstone, Mrs. Malaprop are immortal figures who provide us with mirth and joy in their respective fields.
Thus, we see that a comedy is a play with a happy ending. Its main aim is to provide mirth and laughter. It deals with types. It is based on the insensibility of the audience.
Types of Comedy
(1) Romantic Comedies-
Inspire to their romantic background and the peaceful remote country life, the characters are not artificial, rather they have been realistically drawn. The majority of them are true to life and they reflect the manners and qualities of the Elizabethan England. They seem to be the human beings really moving around us. Gonzala is the typical countic of the Elizabethan age and Antonio, a mischievous brother of the aristocraotic families.
In fact, their variety is very large from realism to romance and Shakespeare has very perfectly removed this gap and has made them really living beings of his society. He has adopted the method of humour and thus brings out the basic human characteristics. Thus humour has become one of the most outstanding elements of the romantic comedies but it is nowhere shallow or obscure. It is never allowed free play so it has become universal and ever lasting.
Another important feature of the Shakespearean comedies, and the romantic comedies in general, is that the woman play the most important role.
In all the romantic comedies, particularly the Shakespearean comedies, music, singing and dancing are the most powerful elements. They are thoroughly musical. Twelfth Night opens with music, the Fool and other characters are all singers and many beautiful songs are spread in the whole plot. They provide light hearted joy and make the comedies more effective.
(2) The Comedy of Humours-
The comedy of humours is quite opposed to the Romantic comedies in its atmosphere and basic concept. In these comedies, the characters are marked for their single characteristic and this aspect completely overpowers his whole personality. The passions and the other characteristics of these comedies are quite in keeping with the traditions of classical comedies. In England, the first examples of the comedy of humour are Gaurmer Gerton’s Needle and Ralph Roister Doister.
But it English drama, Ben Jonson is considered to be the most successful and powerful dramatist of this genre. In his hands, these comedies gained a wonderful success on the stage. The characters in these comedies are mainly types and so the dramatist is not concerned much with their individual qualities and this is why they are completely different from the romantic comedies. In a romantic comedy, there are always some characters who are importal for their personal qualities and they are not the puppets in the hands of the dramatist, but in the comedy of manners, all the characters are types and represent a particular evil or weakness of the society and it is this aspect of their behaviour which artract the attention of the audience.
Moreover, these characters are named after their particular whim or characteristics like Downright, Morose, Subtle and Sir Epicure. But we must remember that they are not artificial or lifeless. They have their own existence and charm. In Every Man In His Humour. Young Knowell is a normal man, in spite of his own whims. In the comedies of Shadwell, we always find a couple of ordinary and normal characters.
The most important characteristic of the comedy of humour is its complete realism. Instead of moving in the dreamland of romance, it is concerned with the contemporary life and its manners as Ben Jonson has clarified in the Prologue to Every Man In His Humour that his purpose in these plays is to sport with human follies, not with crimes.’ Thus, the credit of popularising the comedy of humours goes to Ben Jonson, in imitation of the classical comedies.
(3) The Comedy of Manners-
The comedy of manners developed during the Age of Dryden or the Restoration period and it was considerably influenced by the French dramatist Moliere and the Spanish dramatist Colderon. They provided the English dramatists with plot and comic characters. The Spanish drama paved the way for their love for intrigue. The restoration comedy was modelled on the realistic comedy of Ben Jonson. It has been called the comedy of manners because it reflects and presents the manners and traditions not of the lower poor classes, but of the upper aristocratic class.
It is realistic in character and draws our attention to the ways of life and intrigues of these upper classes and this makes it different from the earlier English Comedies. It shows the gentlemen and the artificial ways of their life. They are everywhere concerned on the intrigues and amorous activities of the fashionable young men and women and the scenes are laid in the coffee houses, clubs and gambling centres which were so common in the Restoration English society. Here the reputation was murdered and the love intrigues were very common among them.
(4) Sentimental Comedies-
The sentimental comedy of the eighteenth century was in fact a reaction against the comedy of manners which was most widely popular during the Restoration period. The aim of the writers of the comedy of manners was light hearted fun. Middle class morality was badly ridicuted and the hatred was expressed against virtue and virtuous characters.
They satirised morality and piety. The sentimental comedy of his period was reaction against all these things. In these comedies, laughter and humour was completely rejected and rich humour and pathetic situation were introduced, so in these sentimental comedies, the most important element is the complete absence of the true spirit of comedy, the writers of this school introduced the characters from middle class life and all of them were virtuous. They condemnedd vice, they were coralists and thir purpose was to teach moral lessons.
The dialogues were neither sharp nor witty Goldsmith outlines the essential qualities of the sentimental comedy through his discussion on Richard Cumberland who was a successful writer of the sentimental comedies. A new trend had started in favour of inculcating great virtues and this gave birth to sentimental comedies. This taste had developed mainly in middle classes. They were against pure materialism and the extravagant behaviour of the aristocracy. They believed in God and were in favour of respectable virtuous life.
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