What is comedy?

We explain what comedy is and what was the origin of this wonderful dramatic genre. In addition, the types of comedy that exist and examples.

  1. What is comedy?

It is called comedy to one of the oldest dramatic genres, opposed in its theme to tragedy, that is, characterized by plots and stories that evoke laughter and have a happy ending . As described by the Greek philosopher Aristotle in his  Poetics  (6th century BC), the comedy consists of a representation of the worst men of what they really are, which allows viewers to make fun of them, even being powerful figures in real life .

The ancient Greeks cultivated it as one of the two summit forms of the dramatic, associating it with the bucolic and pastoral muse of the name Thalia, who along with Melpómene (muse of tragedy) were the inspirers of the theater . Since then these two arts are represented by two masks: one smiling and the other tearful, associating them with two perspectives on life: the optimistic and the pessimistic.

Comedy, unlike tragedy, does not deal with exalting or solemnly addressing its characters , but chooses them from the vulgar and subjects them not to a fatal destiny, but to the rigors of chance. Hence, in many types of comedy (such as entanglement), the characters get rid of difficult or embarrassing situations by pure chance.

However, that absence of a destiny traced by the gods in comedy also entails an important notion of human freedom , since everyone in their works can pursue their own future at will, which opens the way for nonsense, coincidence , surprise, rhythm changes and other frequent resources in the narrative structure of the genre.

  1. Comedy Origin

Charles Chaplin
Charles Chaplin is a legendary character in comic cinema.

Comedy, like tragedy , has its origin as a genre in Ancient Greece (1200 – 146 BC), as an artistic evolution of the primitive songs of honor to Dionysus, derived from ditirambo, a Greek composition associated with satire and mime . The splendor of the Greek comedy took place with Aristophanes (444-385 BC), whose inheritance was transmitted to Roman culture by the Greek comediographer Menander in the fourth century.

From there it would go to European medieval culture, where it would be an important part of popular traditions, nothing similar to the religious and censored art of the time, being rather grotesque and very in touch with the body. There later comic art phenomena would be engendered such as the  Commedia dell’Arte  or the Spanish Golden Age theater (Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca, mainly). 

Comedy would later be an important genre of the contemporary artistic imaginary , especially in nineteenth-century theater and early cinema , with legendary characters such as Charles Chaplin’s Charlot or Mario Moreno’s Cantinflas.

  1. Types of comedy

Musical comedy
In the musical comedy the characters sing and dance in addition to acting.

There are various classifications of comedy, depending on the type of plot and characters it shows. Some examples are:

  • Old comedy . The work of the great comedians of antiquity is well known, such as Aristophanes, Cratés or Cratinos, inventors of the genre.
  • Tangle comedy . Also called “situation”, it consists of the random and crazy mix of two or more stories that converge unintentionally and give rise to misunderstandings.
  • Physical comedy . Called in English  slapstick , it is the comedy of important physical or acting component, that is, in which the actors suffer physical accidents: falls, blows, etc.
  • Pastoral or pastoral comedy . Dedicated to the bucolic country life, with loves between shepherds or peasants.
  • Satirical comedy . That which ridicules certain institutions or individuals, enhancing their defects and making fun of the powerful.
  • Comedy of magic . Also known as apparatus comedy, it has the presence of all kinds of magical beings and animals that require special situations and effects (stage).
  • Musical comedy . Where the characters not only act, but sing and dance.
  1. Comedy Examples

Some of the most recognized comedies are:

  • Lysistrata ,  the clouds  and  the frogs  of Aristophanes.
  • The imaginary patient  of Molière.
  •  Plauto’s pot .
  • The convicted of distrustful  and  The mocker of Seville  by Tirso de Molina.
  • The importance of being named Ernesto  de Oscar Wilde.
  • The great dictator  of Charles Chaplin.
  • The father ,  The sweeper ,  There is the detail  of Mario Moreno “Cantinflas.”

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