In a comparison of comedy and tragedy, I will begin by looking at narrative. The narration in a comedy often involves union and togetherness as we see in the marriage scene at the end of Midsummer's Night Dream. William Hazlitt tells us that one can also expect incongruities, misunderstandings, and contradictions. I am reminded of the play The Importance of Being Ernest and the humor by way of mistaken identity. Sigmund Freud tells us to expect excess and exaggeration in comedy. Chekhov's Marriage Proposal displays this excess both in language and in movements. Charles Darwin insists that in a comedy "circumstances must not be of a momentous nature;" whereas, Northop Frye identifies comedy as having a happy ending and using repetition that goes nowhere.
On the other hand, narration in tragedy often goes from high to low. Oedipus is a clear example of this. At the beginning he is in a high position and held in high esteem by the people. By the end he has fallen to the depths of despair. Aristotle tells us that plot is the "soul of tragedy," and he points out that we see this through an imitation of life through realistic actions. Taking risks and thinking big characterize narration in tragedy. Hamlet exemplifies these characteristics throughout the storyline. Aristotle insists that tragedy should have the right ending, which generally means that it will have an unhappy ending. We see this in Desire Under the Elms when Eben and Abbie are taken away to jail for the crime.
Characters in comedy and tragedy are generally quite different. Comic characters are (or used to be) lower class individuals (Aristotle, Goldsmith). Indeed this is the case with t...
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...ddition to the characteristics mentioned previously we see Bottom using malapropisms. This is also associated with low comedy; whereas, high comedy is considered more intellectual. It may include wit that adds another layer to an already comic scene. This is seen during both plays within a play as the audience makes witty remarks about the play. High comedy may become dated sooner because it frequently centers on current events.
Both the comedy and the tragedies we have read alluded to or used the elements of the unnatural. Poison or a love potion was central to both Midsummer Night's Dream and Hamlet. Complicated romance was seen in MND, Hamlet, and Desire. Fate had a strong role in several of the plays as well. In Oedipus the oracle was at the very heart of the play, and in Desire Cabot and even the play itself seemed driven by the will of God.
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