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comedy

“…the movement of comedy is usually a movement from one kind of society to another.”

I wonder about the nature of comedy, I wonder about that a lot, because the way the world is going, the choice appears to be laugh or die. One Northrop Frye had some well-thought-out ideas regarding comedy, one of which being that there’s nothing new under the sun. To wit:

What normally happens is that a young man wants a young woman, that his desire is resisted by some opposition, usually paternal, and that near the end of the play some twist in the plot enables the hero to have his will. In this simple pattern there are several complex elements. In the first place, the movement of comedy is usually a movement from one kind of society to another. At the beginning of the play the obstructing characters are in charge of the play’s society, and the audience recognizes that they are usurpers. At the end of the play the device in the plot that brings hero and heroine together causes a new society to crystallize around the hero, and the moment when this crystallization occurs is the point of resolution in the action, the comic discovery, anagnorisis or cognitio.

If this interests you, you can read the chapter here, and the book – Anatomy of Criticism – here.

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