From LitWiki

General Definition

Comedy is a term used to describe a play or performing art which generally ends in a happy ending. Webster's Dictionary Comedy describes a drama or any work with a happy ending. All materials integrated into a this form of literary work are included in effort to amuse an audience. It starts with a problematic, tragic, or serious situation or ludicrous event and uses humor to show how characters within the work overcome such obstacles. The term comedy also includes exaggerated forms of comic entertainment called farce and burlesque. Other forms of comedy are farce, romantic, satiric, or comedy of manners (Abrams 39). It can best be described as a form of humourous entertainment.

Types of Comedy

Farce comedy was designed to provoke the audience to experience a simple hearty laughter-or "belly laughs" (Abrams,Harpham 40). Romantic comedy developed during the Elizabaethan Age. The courses of such loves rarely run smoothly in these works but all is overcome in the end with a happy union (Abrams,Harpham 39). Satiric Comedy ridicules political policies or philisophical doctines or sometimes attacks deviations from the accepted social order (Abrams,Harpham 39). They do this by making ridiculous violations of standard morals or manners(Abrams,Harpham 39). Aristophanes used this as his preferred style (Abrams,Harpham 39). Comedy of Manners was developed by Roman dramatists Platus & Terrence (Abrams,Harpham 39).

Comedy in History

Comedy developed from ancient Greek festivals in honor of Dionysus, the god of revelry. It was then associated with fertility rites and the worship of the gods(Cuddon 148).Greek comedy reached its highest development in the plays a dramatist named Aristophanes. His works contained the elements of mockery and mischeif to create amusement for his audiences. He created works such as "Acharnians", "Knights", "Clouds", "Wasps", and "Birds" (Cuddon 148).Roman comedies regularly dealt with youthful love. Shakespeare's preferred style was romantic comedy as well (Baldick 40). Since the original development of comedy it has always been associated with drama (except in the Middle Ages) (Cuddon 149).

What Others Have to Say About Comedy

Comedy is a term that is defined in so many ways that it is easy to see why it is one of the more difficult terms to define. Aristotle distinguished it from tragedy by saying that it deals in an amusing way with ordinary characters facing hard times in everyday situations (Cuddon 149). Comedy usually concerns petty human failings rather than the insurmountable catastrophies that are found in works of tragedy. Beckson and Ganz suggest comedy is any literary work, but especially a play, less exalted and less serious than tragedy, commonly having a happy ending (Ganz,Beckson 43). Vincent de Beauvis describes comedy as a poem changing a sad beginning into a happy ending(Cuddon 148).

To Sum Up

Most commonly comedy can be defined as a work of fiction in which all materials used are to amuse an audience. Before the happy ending, characters in a comedy must face misfortunes or disasters that they must overcome. Rather than feeling concern for these characters we usually feel confident that the situation will not get any worse than it already is. We feel the intended humor behind the calamity and we always seem to know that such obstacles will not prevent the character's triumph in the end. The term comedy is mostly just used for plays or for motion picture films, but it is also used in prose fiction as well as in narrative poetry (Abrams 38-40).

Works Cited

  • Abrams, M. H., Harpham Geoffrey Galt. "A Glossary of Literary Terms 8th Edition"The Thomson Corporation. 2005
  • Baldick, Chris. "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms"Great Britian: Cox and Wyman Ltd. 1990
  • Beckson Karl E., Ganz Arthur. "Literary Terms A Dictionary 3rd Edition"Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 1975.
  • Cuddon, J.A. "The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory Fourth Edition"London: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1998

Literary Terms