Introduction to Drama: A Beginner’s Guide to Comedy


What’s a Comedy?

Comedy is  an entertainment consisting of jokes intended to make an audience laugh.  For ancient Greeks and Romans comedies were a stage-play with a happy ending.  William Shakespeare wrote  many  comedies during his life, some of his comedies are:

  1. The Merchant of Venice
  2. Twelfth Night
  3. All’s Well That Ends Well
  4. The Tempest
  5. Taming of the Shrew
  6. The Winter’s Tale
  7. As You Like It
  8. Love’s Labours Lost
  9. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  10. The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  11. The Merry Wives of Windsor
  12. Measure for Measure
  13. Much Ado About Nothing
  14. Pericles
  15. Prince of Tyre
  16. The Two Noble Kinsmen.

Shakespeare’s Comedies

The main characteristics in Shakespeare’s Comedies are:

  • A struggle of young lovers to overcome problems, often the result of the interference of their elders.
  • There is some element of separation and reunification.
  • Mistaken identities, often involving disguise.
  • A clever servant.
  • Family tensions that are usually resolved in the end.
  • Complex, interwoven plot-lines.
  • Frequent use of puns and other styles of comedy.
  • They may involve some very dramatic storylines.
  • They have a happy ending, often involving a marriage.

Types of Comedy

Court Comedy, written to be performed at the court of kings and queens.

Comedy of Characters is a play that focuses on the absurdities and eccentricities of the characters rather than plot development.

Romantic Comedy involves love and romance

Farce is  a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations

Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Comedy of Morals highlights and condemns behaviour thatis considered socially unacceptable.

Black Comedy: Humour that makes fun of serious subject matter such as death and religion. Offensive to some, hilarious to others. Requires intelligent scripting.

Parody deliberately imitates another work for comic effect

High Comedy: a type of comedy characterized by witty dialogue, satire, biting humor, or criticism of life.

Low Comedy:  a dramatic or literary form of entertainment with no primary purpose but to create laughter by boasting, boisterous jokes, drunkenness, scolding, fighting, buffoonery and other riotous activity.

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