By Muhammad Faseeh ul Hassan

Introduction

Comedy is literary genre and a type of drama which is characterized by its humorous or satirical tone and its depiction of amusing people or incidents, in which the characters ultimately triumph over adversity. The conclusion of the comedy is jovial and cheerful.

In other words, Comedy is a play which is light and humorous in tone, which represents characters and incidents of ordinary life and which ends happily. Comedies are a significant type in writing since they consider audience to be inspired. By presenting entertaining circumstances to the crowd, they take into account chuckling and satisfaction as the impacts of watching them. Because the purposes of comedies are to amuse and entertain, they may appeal to broader audiences such as young children as well as adults.

Background Of Comedy

Greek comedy ( in speaking of which we distinguish between Old, Middle and New Comedy) was from the beginning associated with fertility rites and and worship of Dionysus; thus with Komos. From Aristophanes onwards it has been primarily associated with the drama (except during middle ages).

Aristophanes (448-380 B.C.) composed an assortment of the comedies which consolidate fine verse stanza, dance, parody, buffoonery, social remark, fantastic  plots and striking characters. His major works are: Acbarnians, Knights, Clouds, Peace, Wasps, Birds, Frogs, Lysistrata, Thesmophoriazusae.

Menander (343-291 B.C.) was another great Greek comedian. Apart from the Dyskolos only fragments of his plays survive but much is known about them because the Romans were familiar with them. In fact Menander had a great influence on succeeding dramatists. His themes were more social than political, and the theme of the youthful was the most favorite one. “Aristophanes belong to what is known as the ‘school’ of Old Comedy, and Menander to New Comedy. In between came Middle Comedy”.

The other major comic writers of antiquity were the Romans Plautus (254-184 B.C.) and Terence (190-159 B.C.). Both of them wrote the imitations of the Menander, and their themes also tended to be concerned with youthful love.

As far the theory of the comedy thus far, there is not much to record. In Poetics, Aristotle distinguishes it from Tragedy by saying it deals in an amusing way with ordinary characters in rather everyday situations. from the 4th c A.D. we have a few generalizations by the grammarians Evanthius, Diomedes and Donatus. Evanthius says that in comedy the men are of middle fortune, the dangers they run into are neither serious nor pressing and heir actions conclude happily. Diomedes observes that the characters in the comedy are humble and private (not heros, generals and kings). He adds that two main themes of comedy are love affairs and the abduction of the maidens. According to Donatus, comedy was a tale containing various elements of the dispositions of town-dwellers and private people who are shown what is useful and what is not useful in life , and what should be avoided.

Comedy is the fountain of sound sense.

GEORGE MEREDITH: The Idea of Comedy,1877

Types of Comedy

There are different types in which comedy is divided depending upon different characteristics. Some major types are as follows;

  • Romantic Comedy
  • Comedy of Humours
  • Comedy of Manners
  • Restoration Comedy
  • Sentimental Comedy
  • Comedy of Ideas
  • Tragicomedy

Romantic comedy is a subgenre of comedy and slice-of-life fiction, focusing on lighthearted, humorous plot lines centered on romantic ideas, such as how true love is able to surmount most obstacles. In romantic comedy love is the main theme – and love which leads to a happy ending, as in Shakespeare‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream , As You Like It and Twelfth Night.

All comedies are ended by marriage.

BYRON: Don Juan, III,1821

Comedy of Humours is a type of dramatic comedy that centers around a character or range of characters, every one of whom shows at least two abrogating attributes or ‘humors’ that overwhelms their character, desires and lead. This type of comedy became very fashionable at the end of the 16th c. and early in the 17th. Basically this was a physiological interception of character and personality. Ben Johnson appears to have been the first person to have elaborated the idea on any scale. His two outstanding works in this kind of comedy are Every Man in His Humour (1598) and Every Man Out of His Humour (1599); plus minor works like The Magnetic lady: or Humours Reconcined (1632).

Comedy of Manners is a genre that has for its main subjects and themes, the behavior and deportment of men and women living under specific social codes. It tends to be preoccupied with the codes of the middle and the upper classes and is often remarked with the elegance, wit and sophistication. Shakespeare‘s comedies Love’s Labour’s Last (1595) and Much Ado About Nothing (1598-99) are also comedies of manners. Sheridan‘s The School for Scandal(1777) and Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) and The Woman of No Importance (1893) are the most outstanding examples of the genre.

Restoration Comedy is a kind a drama which prevailed between the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 and the advent of sentimental comedy early in the 18th century. It is also referred as artificial comedy or comedy of manners and was chiefly concerned with presenting a society of elegance and stylishness.. Its characters were gallants, ladies and gentlemen o fashion and rank, fops, rakes, social climbers and country bumpkins. The main writers were Wycherley, Etheredge, Congreve, Vanbrugh and Farquhar. The major plays were: Wycherley‘s The Country Wife and The Plain Dealer ; Etheridge‘s The Man of Mode ; Congreve‘s The Double Dealer, Love for Love and The Way of The World and Farquhar‘s The Recruiting Officer and The Beaux’ Stratagem.

Sentimental Comedy is also known as the drama of sensibility, it followed on from Restoration Comedy and was a kind of reaction against what was regarded as immorality and license in the latter. Jeremy Collier (1650-1726) severely criticized Restoration Comedy in A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698) . Sentimental Comedy arose because a rising middle class enjoyed this kind of drama. The characters, both good and bad, were luminously simple; the hero was ever magnanimous and honorable and hypersensitive to the sensibilities of other people – rather like the hero in Hampton‘s The Philanthropist (1971). Good examples from the period are Richard Steele’s The Conscious Lovers (1722), Hugh Kelly‘s False Delicacy (1768), and several works by Richard Cumberland, notably The Brothers (1769) and The West Indian (1771).

Comedy of Ideas is a term loosely applied to the which tend to debate, in a witty and humorous fashion, ideas and theories. George Bernard Shaw is an outstanding exponent in Man and Superman (1905), Doctor’s Dilemma (1906), Androcles and the Lion (1912) and The Apple Cart (1929).

Tragicomedy is a genre that blends aspects of both tragic and comic forms. Most frequently seen in dramatic literature, the term can describe either a tragic play which contains enough comic elements to lighten the general mood or a significant play with a cheerful ending. Tragicomedy, as its name implies, invokes the intended response of both the tragedy and the comedy in the audience, the former being a genre based on human suffering that conjures catharsis or pleasure and the last being a genre proposed to be entertaining or interesting by instigating giggling.

The term derives from a reference by Plautus (254-184 B.C.) to the conventional mixtures of kings, gods, and servants in his own play Amphitruo as a tragico-comedia. However, the idea of tragicomedy was not new even then since Euripides‘s Alcestis and Iphigenia (both tragedies) had happy endings. The tragicomedies from the Shakespeare are all different from each other and from anything that preceded them: namely, Troilus and Cressida , All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for measure, The winter’s Tale, Cymbeline and The Tempest.

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