Comedy Questions and Answers
The word ‘Comedy‘ has been derived the French word comdie, which in turn is taken from the Greeco-Latin word Comedia. The word comedia is made of two words komos, which means revel and aeidein means to sing. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, comedy means a branch of drama, which deals with everyday life and humorous events. It also means a play of light and amusing type of theatre. Comedy may be defined as a play with a happy ending. Ancient Greek comedy was one of the final three principal dramatic forms in the theatre of classical Greece. Athenian comedy is conventionally divided into three periods: Old Comedy, Middle Comedy, and New Comedy.
1. Old Comedy:
Aristophanes was considered the master of the Old Comedy, and we have eleven complete plays from him. His work had weak plots, but there were two other layers to his plays. The first was pure and simple humor, focused on scatological and sexual jokes.
2. Middle Comedy:
Middle Comedy has been placed between the death of Aristophanes and the first plays of Menander. The style is considered a transition between the traditional and new comedy, but you can think of Middle Comedy as a simpler form of Old Comedy. The chorus was a basic part of the play in Old Comedy, but it was unimportant by the time Aristophanes died and used less and less. There were not any attacks on people, either. Instead, there were stock figures that always behaved in the same way. Think of a cranky cab driver, a proud baker, a perfectly precise banker, and a valley girl being put in play after play with other stereotype characters, and you have an idea about how Middle Comedy looked.
3. New Comedy:
Menander was the genius of New Comedy, which started about 320 B.C.E. and ended in about 260 B.C.E. There were other playwrights, though, like Philemon and Diphilus, and we know from fragments that they wrote the same kinds of plays. Just like Middle Comedy, New Comedy did not bother with politics or specific people nor did they use sexual humor or the chorus too much. Instead, the New Comedy playwrights liked to focus on the humour of everyday living. Their plays were usually set in Athens with everyday people as the main characters. The situation comedies that seem to be on your television every night are a good representation of that.
Short Questions with Answers[MARKS 2]
Q. 1. Define comedy as a literary type.
Ans. Comedy is a literary genre characterized by its humorous and light-hearted portrayal of human foibles, absurd situations, and societal norms, often aiming to provoke laughter and amusement.
Q. 2. What is the primary purpose of comedy in literature?
Ans. The primary purpose of comedy in literature is to entertain and amuse readers through humour, satire, and the exaggeration of human behaviour and situations.
Q. 3. Name a famous example of a comedic play of the Victorian age.
Ans. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a well-known comedic play that satirizes Victorian society and explores themes of mistaken identity.
Q. 4. How does comedy differ from tragedy in literature?
Ans. Comedy focuses on humorous situations and the resolution of conflicts in a positive and light-hearted manner, while tragedy delves into more serious themes, often involving the downfall of a central character.
Q. 5. What role does exaggeration play in comedy?
Ans. Exaggeration is a common technique in comedic literature, amplifying characteristics, events, or situations to absurd levels, which adds to the comedic effect and makes the story more entertaining.
Q. 6. How does comedy often challenge societal norms?
Ans. Comedy uses satire and humour to mock and challenge societal norms, revealing their absurditles and encouraging readers to question established conventions and beliefs.
Q. 7. What is a ‘stock character’ in comedy?
Ans. A stock character is a recognizable and stereotypical figure often found in comedic literature, such as the “bumbling fool” or the “clever trickster,” used to create comedic situations.
Q. 8. Give an example of situational comedy in literature.
Ans. In Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, the mistaken identities and romantic confusion among the characters create situational comedy, leading to amusing misunderstandings.
Q. 9. How does wordplay contribute to comedy?
Ans. Wordplay, including puns, repartees, and clever language usage, adds humour and wit to comedy engaging readers with linguistic playfulness.
Q.10. What distinguishes romantic comedy from other forms of comedy?
Ans. Romantic comedy places a central focus on romantic relationships and often follows the journey of characters overcoming obstacles to find love, combining humour with themes of love and relationships.
Q.11. What is a farce?
Ans. Farce is a kind of comedy that inspires hilarity mixed with panic and cruelty in its audience through an increasingly rapid and improbable series of ludicrous confusions, physical disasters, and sexual innuendos amongst its stock characters.
Q.12. What is Sentimental Comedy?
Ans. Sentimental comedy is the representation of the middle-class life that replaced the tough amorality and the comic or satiric representation of aristocratic sexual licence in restoration comedy.
Q.13. What is a Dark Comedy? Mention some Dark Comedies.
Ans. Dark Comedy is also known as black comedy. It is a drama which believes that human beings exist in a purposeless universe where they are faced with forces which are beyond their control or understanding. It believes that morality and ethics, as well as intellectual values are meaningless, and that life is a tragic farce. The so-called dark comedies of Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, All’s Well that Ends Well, and The Winter’s Tale. Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), Pinter’s The Homecoming (1965) and Joe Orton’s Loot (1965) are other examples of this kind of play.
Q.14. What are Satyr plays?
Ans. Satyr plays are generally short plays which were performed between the acts of tragedies and made fun of the plight of the tragic characters. The satyrs were half human and half goat figures and actors in these plays wore large phalluses for comic effect. Few examples of these plays survive. They are classified by some authors as tragicomedies or comedy dramas.
Q.15. What is comedy of intrigues? Give examples.
Ans. Comedy of intrigues is a form of comedy which depends upon an intricate plot full of surprises and tends to subordinate character to plot. She Stoops to Conquer is a splendid comedy of intrigues. The intrigues are the chief sources of wit and humour in this play.
Short Essay Type Questions with Answers[MARKS 5]
Q. 1. Explain the characteristic features of the comedy.
In the most common literary application, a comedy is a fictional work in which the materials are selected and managed primarily in order to interest and amuse us: the characters and their discomfitures engage our pleasurable attention rather than our profound concern, we are made to feel confident that no great disaster will occur, and usually the action turns out happily for the chief characters.
The term “comedy” is customarily applied only to plays for the stage or to motion pictures; it should be noted, however, that the comic form, so defined, also occurs in prose fiction and narrative poetry. In Poetics, Aristotle distinguishes it from tragedy by saying it deals in an amusing way with ordinary characters in rather everyday situations. Ralph Roister Doister (1553) by Nicholas Udal is generally regarded as the first English dramatic comedy. Shakespeare’s early experiments in comic dramatizing lie in The Comedy of Errors (1590). In Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, the mistaken identities and romantic confusion among the characters create situational comedy, leading to amusing misunderstandings.
Q.2. Explain the characteristic features of the Comedy of Manners?
The comedy of manners originated in the New Comedy of the Greek Menander, c. 342-292 B.C. (as distinguished from the Old Comedy represented by Aristophanes) and was developed by the Roman dramatists Plautus and Terence in the third and second centuries B.C. Their plays dealt with the vicissitudes of young lovers and included what became the stock characters of much later comedy, such as the clever servant, old and stodgy parents, and the wealthy rival. The English comedy of manners was early exemplified by Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado about Nothing, and was given a high polish in Restoration comedy (1660-1700).
The Restoration form owes much to the brilliant dramas of the French writer Molière (1622-73). It deals with the relations and intrigues of men and women living in a sophisticated upper-class society, and relies for comic effect in large part on the wit and sparkle of the dialogue – often in the form of repartee, a witty conversational give-and take which constitutes a kind of verbal fencing match-and to a lesser degree, on the violations of social standards and decorum by would be wits, jealous husbands, conniving rivals, and foppish dandies. Excellent examples are William Congreve’s The Way of the World and William Wycherley’s The Country Wife. A middle-class reaction against what had come to be considered the immorality of situation and indecency of dialogue in the courtly Restoration comedy resulted in the sentimental comedy of the eighteenth century.
In the latter part of the century, however, Oliver Goldsmith She Stoops to Conquer and his contemporary Richard Brinsley Sheridan The Rivals and A School for Scandal revived the wit and gaiety, while deleting the indecency, of Restoration comedy. The comedy of manners lapsed in the early nineteenth century, but was revived by many skillful dramatists, from A. W. Pinero and Oscar Wilde The Importance of Being Earnest, (1895), through George Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward, to Neil Simon, Alan Ayckbourn, Wendy Wasserstein, and other writers of the present era. Many of these comedies have also been adapted for the cinema.
Q. 3. Explain the characteristic features of the Comedy of Humours?
Comedy of Humours refers to a type of comedy developed by Ben Jonson, the Elizabethan playwright, based on the ancient physiological theory of the “four humours” that was still current in Jonson’s time. The humours were held to be the four primary fluids 1. blood, 2. phlegm, 3. choler (or yellow bile), and 4. melancholy (or black bile) whose “temperament” or mixture, was held to determine both a person’s physical condition and character type. An imbalance of one or another humour in a temperament was said to produce four kinds of disposition, whose names have survived the underlying theory: sanguine (from the Latin “sanguis,” blood), phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic. In Jonson’s comedy of humours each of the major characters has a preponderant humour that gives him a characteristic distortion or eccentricity of disposition.
Jonson expounds his theory in the “Induction” to his play “Every Man in His Humour (1598) and exemplifies the mode in his later comedies; often he identifies the ruling disposition of a humours character by his or her name: “Zealof-the-land Busy,” “Dame Purecraft,” “Wellbred.” The Jonsonian type of humours character appears in plays by other Elizabethans, and remained influential in the comedies of manners by William Wycherley, Sir George Etheredge, William Congreve, and other dramatists of the English Restoration, 1660-1700.
Q. 4. Distinguish between Comedy of Humours and Comedy of Manners.
The comedy of humours was a genre of dramatic comedythat focuses on a character or range ofcharacters, each of whom exhibits two or moreoverriding traits or ‘humours’ that dominates theirpersonality, desires, and conduct. The comedy of manners was a form of comedy that satirizes the manners and affectations of contemporary society and questions societal standards. A comedy of manners often sacrifices the plot, which usually centres on some scandal, to witty dialogue and sharp social commentary. Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest (1895), which satirized the Victorian morality of the time, is one of the best-known plays of this genre. This comic technique may be found in Aristophanes, but the English playwrights Ben Jonson and George Chapman popularized the genre in the closing years of the sixteenth century. In the latter half of the seventeenth century, it was combined with the comedy of manners in Restoration comedy.
The comedy of humour which deals largelywith exaggerated types of humour was one which adumbrated in the and in Ralph Roister Doister and then after a not very glorious career was rendered popular by Jonson in Every Man in His Humour. All humours or of romance of manner, deals with types of character than with personalities.
But the comedy of humours deals with types which are more exaggerated than the types in Shakespeare Restoration Comedy, humour, Jonson’s comedy of humours was a genre of dramatic comedythat focuses on a character orange of characters, each of whom exhibits two or more overriding traits or ‘humours’ that dominates their person The Comedy of Manner was realistic but not in the manners that Jonson’s plays were realistic. In Jonson works there was a decided attempt to display through the types traits of contemporary life there was amass of topical allusion and the subjects are often from real life but it is a real artificial and still further it is the airier, what they might almost call the spiritual parts of real life.
Q. 5. What are the most important features of Romantic Comedy?
Romantic Comedy is thoroughly charged with powerful passion and emotion of love and romance. A Romantic comedy is a type of comedy that includes the love story between the hero and the heroin amidst perfect romantic and festive setting, develops through some difficulties, hazards, misunderstandings but ends in happy note. The romantic comedy was cultivated by Elizabethan dramatists and Shakespeare was the head of this romantic group. Many University Greene, Thomas Lodge wrote romantic comedy in the Elizabethan Period.
Romantic comedies are set in natural surrounding quite away from the bustle of city life. Peace and quietness also surround there. Settings of some Romantic plays:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Twelfth Night Much Ado About Nothing As You Like It The Tempest
In a wood near Athens
In sea-coast town and flowering gardens
In the orchard and its surrounding
In the Forest of Arden
In an Island separate from human civilization
Romantic comedy is a type of comedy, wherein the playwright does not follow the classical conventions of comedy. The writer is mostly concerned with his plight of imagination and writes what he thinks. There is mingling of comic and tragic elements unlike classical comedy, wherein only comic elements are included in a comedy. The three unities are thrown into the wind. Its aim is not didactic or morality. Its main function is to provide entertainment to the readers. Comedies of Shakespeare are romantic in nature.
Q. 6. How would you distinguish between Romantic and Classical comedy? Answer with illustrations.
In order to understand Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, it is necessary to differentiate it from the Classical comedy. The basis of Shakespearean comedy, as Nevill Coghill says, is the simple formula of Vincent de Beauvais – a tale of trouble that turns to joy. In comedy, things are just the opposite of tragedy. In tragedy ‘life is to be fled from’; in comedy ‘it is to be grasped’. This is the view of the comedy of the Middle Ages from which sprang romantic comedy. The Renaissance view of comedy from which originated satirical or classical comedy is different. Sympathy is the keynote of the Romantic comedy. Classical comedy rests itself on ridicule. Imagination opens the gate way to Romantic Comedy. Satire is what we find in the world of Classical Comedy. The true basis of Romantic comedy is love. In Classical comedy we find only sex and hate.
It is unlike Romantic comedy not opposite to Tragedy. Comedy is only the instrument of social ethics and its main business is punishment of crimes. The Romantic comedy is summed up in the word ‘Freedom’, while the Classical Comedy is bound by the rules. Classical comedy observes strictly unities of time, place and action, romantic comedy observes unity of action, but not unities of time and place as in The Tempest. In classical comedy the comic and the tragic are strictly separated while the Shakespearean romantic comedy is the mingled yam of happiness and woe. Classical comedy believes in realism. It deals with the realities of the day. In Romantic Comedy we are transported to far-off distant lands. The aim of the classical comedy is to cure the society of the follies; weaknesses are exposed and ridiculed. The aim of Ben Jonson’s comedies is to
Q. 7. Write a short note on Shakespearean comedy.
In order to understand Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, it is necessary to differentiate it from the Classical comedy. The basis of Shakespearean comedy, as Nevill Coghill says, is the simple formula of Vincent de Beauvais – a tale of trouble that turns to joy. In comedy, things are just the opposite of tragedy. In tragedy ‘life is to be fled from’; in comedy ‘it is to be grasped. This is the view of the comedy of the Middle Ages from which sprang romantic comedy. The Renaissance view of comedy from which originated satirical or classical comedy is different. Sympathy is the keynote of the Romantic comedy. Classical comedy rests itself on ridicule. Imagination opens the gate way to Romantic Comedy. Satire is what we find in the world of Classical Comedy. The true basis of Romantic comedy is love. In Classical comedy we find only sex and hate. It is unlike Romantic comedy not opposite to Tragedy. Comedy is only the instrument of social ethics and its main business is punishment of crimes. The Romantic comedy is summed up in the word ‘Freedom’,
while the Classical Comedy is bound by the rules. Classical comedy observes strictly unities of time, place and action, romantic comedy observes unity of action, but not unities of time and place as in The Tempest. In classical comedy the comic and the tragic are strictly separated while the Shakespearean romantic comedy is the mingled yam of happiness and woe. Classical comedy believes in realism. It deals with the realities of the day. In Romantic Comedy we are transported to far-off distant lands. The aim of the classical comedy is to cure the society of the follies; weaknesses are exposed and ridiculed.
Q. 8. Write a short note on Sentimental Comedy.
The Sentimental Comedy of the age was a reaction against the Comedy of Manners. In this comedy, laughter and humour were completely driven out and in place of comedy, sadness was introduced. The Sentimental Comedy lacked the true spirit of comedy, comparatively.
Humour was replaced by pathos and humorous situations in pathetic situations.
Writers introduced characters from the middle-class life characterized by virtue without any gain of vice in them.
The writers of Sentimental Comedy were moralists and wanted to teach morals through the medium of their plays.
The Sentimental Comedies were basically moral in impact and a sense of morality and virtue governed them from beginning to end.
The dialogues were neither severe nor sparkling.
It remained popular for nearly half a century.
It drove out genuine comedy from the English Stage.
It provided moral lectures in place of entertainment.
It awakened tears instead of laughter.
It was characterized by emotions of pity and sympathy and lacked wit or humour.
It was serious from beginning to end and was entirely removed from the realities of life.
Its characters were not real men and women, but the production of minds of playwrights.
The keen observations and realistic touches which had always brightened the earlier comedy completely disappeared.
Q.9. How can comedy be distinguished from farce?
A farce is a low form of comedy. It can be defined as a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations. As this definition suggest, farce involves exaggerated and funny situations and onedimensional characters. The plot of a farce may often contain many twists and random events, including mistaken identities and misunderstanding. This type of comedy relies on deliberate absurdity, physical humour, bawdy jokes, etc. to create belly laughs. The main aim of a farce is creating laughter and entertaining the audience.
Farces can be created for both theatre and cinema. Films like Home Alone, The Three Stooges, The Hangover can be termed as farces. Farcical plays include William Shakespeare’s, Comedy of Errors”, “Taming of the Shrew”, Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw, Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, Marc Camoletti’s Boeing-Boeingare some examples of farcical plays.
Comedy is a dramatic work that makes people laugh. Some comedies aim only to create laughter whereas some aim to expose and criticize the vices and follies of the society while creating laughter. Farce is a type of comedy that is characterized by highly exaggerated and comic situations and crude and one-dimensional characterizations. It has no other aim than creating laughter. This is the key difference between farce and comedy.
Q.10. Briefly discuss Aristotle’s definition of comedy.
Comedy is one of the five forms of poetry. According to Aristotle, comedy is an imitation of inferior people; however, that is not to say characters in comedies are inferior in every way. A comedy is a play that depicts some sort of “laughable error” or disgrace that, in turn, elicits some emotion in the audience, such as embarrassment or delight. A comedy does not evoke fear or pity from the audience, as these emotions are particular to tragedy. Poetics does not include a detailed criticism of comedy, as Aristotle’s assessment of comedy is thought to be in a part of the manuscript that did not survive antiquity.
In chapter V of The Poeticswe have Aristotle’s well-known definition of comedy: “As for comedy it is………an imitation of men worse than the average; worse, however, not as regards any and every sort of fault, but only as regards one particular kind, the Ridiculous, which is a species of the ugly.” Here Aristotle observes that the comic springs from a sense of inferiority suggested by deformity, deficiency, distortion etc. in human nature or appearance.
Aristotle defines the Ridiculous “as a mistake or deformity not productive of pain or harm to others; the mask, for instance, that excites laughter, is something ugly and distorted without causing pain.” Comedy represents and ridicules the forms of ignoble inferiority, and what is held up to ridicule is also held up for correction – through the provocation and curbing of the harmful excesses of pleasure and laughter.