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Why The Ending of Jez Buttersworth's Jerusalem Disqualifies it as a Comedy

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"The ending of 'Jerusalem' means it cannot be classed a comedy. Discuss"

According to Aristotle, “Comedy can be any colloquy or performance generally intended to amuse or stimulate laughter”. In modern times, comedy can be found in different forms, such as television, movies, theatres and stand-up comedy.

Johnny Byron is introduced in the first scene as a drug-dealer, a drunkard, a vandal, serial liar and a licentious man. However in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, Johnny is viewed as a comical hero, an ancient symbol of misgovernment, mentally and hygienically, making him a minor person according to the Superiority Theory. He is purposely set up to be funny and outlandish. Johnny Byron perhaps may even be a mystical, elemental force as seen in Scene 2 in one of his various tall tales where he meets a giant who claimed to have built Stonehenge and had given him a golden drum to summon an armada of giants to his aid. At the end of the play Johnny beats the drum before he dies. The audience may then hope that Johnny’s tall tales are true and the giants really do come to his aid. However the giants aren’t summoned to help Johnny. The audience expects a happy ending, for they believe that this is a comedy. Johnny also becomes a sympathetic character for he seems to become deluded and was someone who the audience had grown to trust. The audience share the same perspective as all the teenagers that Johnny had spent his time with in the woods. We believe Johnny’s tales. This causes the audience to apprehend Johnny’s outlandishness. Juxtaposed to the contradictory aspect of the Superiority Theory, Johnny Byron's lifestyle makes him a detestable character but we do not find humour in this. He is 'fixed' in a rusty American-style trail...


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...ods come for the free drugs that he offers. Johnny is a man for whom we feel pride, shame and pity all at once but such a contradictory character would be unstable and unpredictable. Aristotle defines tragedy according to seven characteristics. These are that it is characterized by mimicry, it is serious, it expresses a full story of a relevant length, it contains rhythm and harmony, the rhythm and harmony occur in different combinations in different parts of the tragedy, it is performed not narrated and that it provokes feelings of pity and fear then purges these feelings through catharsis the purging of the emotions and emotional tensions. The composition of a tragedy consists of six segments. In order of relevance, these are plot, character, thought, diction, melody, and performance. For a comedy the ending must be merry. Instead Jerusalem ends in death.





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