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Then comedy disappeared when the Roman Empire collapsed. Nonetheless, the moulds for its future development had been cast. Greek comedies were rediscovered during the Renaissance, the point of origin of comedy as we know it today. Furthermore, the Renaissance brought two major developments to the comedy: the commedia dell'arte, and plot developments and defined archetypal characters (Storey: 407). "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is what theoreticians may call a classical comedy although it was written by William Shakespeare towards the end of the sixteenth century. Most of the troubles and humorous situations in the play arise from the theme of love: "The course of true love never did run smooth" (I.i.134) as one of the characters, Lysander prophetically formulates the development of the play. As far as the characters, Puck, king Oberon's jester, is responsible with the tricks provides the main sources of amusement. Moreover, he transforms Nick Bottom's - an overbearing and overconfident actor- head into that of an ass. Puck's appearance is also comical; he is presented as a "hobgoblin" (II.i.40) and does not possess the grace and beauty of a fairy. In order to generate amusement, the audience is distanced from real life emotional suffering caused by romance; instead, the trials and tribulations of love are presented from a humorous, often ironic perspective. Nevertheless, despite the twists of the plot, the audience never doubts that the play will have a happy ending, which generates laughter and allows the spectator to enjoy the humor of the play.
The origins of the drama can be found in mid-eighteenth century when there was an acute need for the theater to portray the trials of ordinary people. The characters of the drama are common people whose lives resemble those of the people watching the play. In fact, this was the main reason for the creation of this new genre: tired of high rank characters and plots that were set in royal courts, the audience needed characters it could relate to. In dramas, the actions of the characters are generally restricted to their own lives in the sense that they do not influence the future of a state or kingdom, but the course of the lives of the characters.
Dramas also differ from tragedies from the point-of-view of the outcome. As in life, in dramas the outcome of a plot is not necessarily death as in the case of the tragedy. In this sense, the audience does not know from the outset what the fate of the characters will be as dramas often have open endings. As far as themes, the drama revolves around the inner conflicts of the characters that are faced with their own desires and aspirations which usually oppose social conventions.
Stage performance and the dramatic text are closely linked. In fact, the latter can be determined by the former. Body and name are associated with the issue of identity as the actor assumes a new role by lending his body to the new identity created by the literary text (Fischer-Lichte: 5). Drama performance usually generates alternatives to the identity crisis it presents. Moreover, drama can formulate an identity which is seen as an ideal by the spectators, one that they aspire to; on the other hand, it can offer an alternative that the audience can neither agree to nor adopt in the future (Ibid.).
Whether comical or tragic, the main function of the theater is to stir emotions by portraying the frailties of human condition. The main difference as far as the three genres is the tone of the play which is always in accordance with the outcome. Comedies hide deep meanings under a shell of humor and irony as oftentimes, irony is the best way of highlighting moral flaws. Tragedies are opportunities for deep reflection upon major faults of the human character whereas dramas are closer to the audience in the sense that they allow spectators to reflect upon their own lives. The role of these two genres is to illuminate either the tragic outcome of a character that makes a serious moral transgression, or simply the trials of ordinary life in the case of the drama, which could account for the latter's growing appeal in the last couple of centuries.
Fischer-Lichte, Erika. History of European Drama and Theatre. London: Routledge, 2001: 1-8.
Silk, M.S., ed. Tragedy and the Tragic: Greek Theatre and Beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Storey, Robert. "Comedy, Its Theorists and the Evolutionary Perspective." Criticism…[continue]
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