The UVic Writer's Guide


Comedy depicts humorous incidents in which protagonists are faced with moderate difficulties but overcome them and the play ends happily. Instead of being isolated like tragic heroes, comic protagonists are comfortable with their society, or become so; and their success is brought about through cooperation with others. Traditional comedy often culminates in marriage. In "high" comedy, human folly arouses intellectual amusement as well as engaging the emotions; whereas "low" comedy arouses laughter through jokes and clowning that have more appeal to the emotions than the intellect.

Some of the major types of comedy are:

Some examples:

(See also Wit, Humour, Irony, Satire .)

In the comic mode, there are often comic episodes in an otherwise tragic work. Famous example include the Gravedigger scene in Hamletand the Porter scene in Macbeth. The term comic relief is often applied to these episodes, but "relief" is seldom the actual effect of the passages--more often such passages are suspenseful or ironical, its humour is black.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 19, 1995