The Comedies of Bernard Shaw and William Shakespeare Essay

The Comedies of Bernard Shaw and William Shakespeare Essay

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With origins from Ancient Greece, Comedy is one of the original four genres of literature as defined by the philosopher Aristotle in his work Poetics. The three other genres are consistent of tragedy, epic poetry, and lyric poetry. Not to be confused with the comedy associated with television and film which focuses entirely on humorous discourse generally intended to amuse; literary comedy is characterised by general humour, happy endings and communal celebration. This assignment will critically analyse the comedies of William Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw and consider what characteristics they share and how they differ. It is also important to fully understand the genre of comedy, exploring its origins, definitions and sub-divisions.
Literary comedy can be sub-divided into ‘Burlesque’ (associated with the ridiculous), ‘Comedy of Manners’, ‘Satirical’ and ‘Farce’, amongst others (Stott, 2005). The comedies of Shakespeare and Shaw take the form of dramatic comedy and can all be associated with the above criteria to some extent. Dramatic comedy begins in difficulty and rapidly involves its characters in amusing situations, ultimately ending happily; but it is worth noting that not all comedies are humorous and light-hearted. Dramatic comedy differs from burlesque and farce in the sense that it has a more closely knit plot, more sensible and intelligent dialogue, and more plausible characterisation.
The term ‘comedy’ comes from the Greco-Latin ‘comoedia’ which is formed by combining ‘komos’, meaning ‘to revel’ and ‘aeidein’, meaning ‘to sing’. Both are features of Shakespearean comedy and are evident in A Midsummer Night’s Dream especially with reference to Titania, who revels in her singing; and Bottom, who is revelled by her sing...


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...le in the contemporary society still look for comedy to evoke laughter and enjoyment as their Middle Age counterparts did. Thus, the aims, purpose and values of comedy have remained unchanged from those initially established in Aristotle’s Ancient Greece.
To conclude, the comedies of Bernard Shaw and William Shakespeare are both relevant to their specific time period and relatable to their respective societies. However, the similarities they both share show the extent to which the genre has remained unchanged. It is understandable that the plays may differ in some aspects because despite the consistency of the genre, the expectations of the audience have changed through the centuries. The main point being that the comedies of Shaw and Shakespeare are identifiable by a majority of the same characteristics outlined by Aristotle and developed by Shakespeare himself.

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