Comedy & Tragedy Analyzing the Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Audiences can ponder the issue of fate when presented with Oedipus, afterlife when thinking of Antigone, and motherhood and marriage when confronted with Medea. Further, modern plays often offer this type of ending as well. For instance, Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie allows audience members to consider the theme of love and romance, superimposed with family. At the end of the story, audience members must contemplate whether Tom should have ever brought Jim home for Laura. This forces them to ask the general question -- is it better to leave someone in apparent misery or risk the chance of giving them false hope? In addition, audiences can ask the even more general question -- is it wrong to hope? Finally, Arp's claim can be true because of art. Even a terribly sad ending, if done beautifully, can leave the reader with a feeling of satisfaction rather than depression. This is true with Shakespeare's Hamlet. Instead of leaving the reader depressed, the final bloody scene of the play, just before Hamlet is honored as a slain warrior, leaves the audience not depressed but shocked with the beauty of it all, the beauty of Hamlet's valor and sacrifice. Thus, Arp's statement that successful tragedy does not leave the audience depressed is true, but once again it can only be true with a caveat -- successful drama does not leave the audience depressed if the audience is capable of appreciating the drama for its unlikable characters, moral or greater theme, or beauty.

Finally, Arp's statement concludes with the rather straightforward: "Some funny plays have sad endings." This statement further supports the argument that the differences between comedies and tragedies are not easily conceived. The fact that funny plays may have sad endings brings to mind the genre of situational comedy, a genre which inspired the ever-popular television sitcom. But before there were sitcoms, there was Ibsen, whose plays set in society often draw the line between comedy and tragedy. A Doll's House, on the one had, can be seen as a funny play -- a situational comedy. One man knows a secret about a woman and makes her do absurd things so that her husband does not find out. This is the stuff of 20th and 21st century sitcoms like The Simpsons and Family Guy, shows that people rarely took seriously, although they often did include painful social commentary for those who were vigilant enough to point it out. Still A Doll's House would not be easily classified as a comedy. Perhaps one could have called it that if it ended with Torvald's attempt to dismiss the remarks he had made about Laura only seconds before he found out that the situation had been resolved -- Krogstad would not reveal Nora's indiscretion. At that point, we would have all laughed awkwardly, as Trovald and Nora and Krogstand and Christine would have happily gone into their next comedic misunderstanding. But it does not end this way, as the ending implies Nora leaves her family for good.

Thus, Arp's statement regarding comedies and tragedies is one that cannot be accepted in whole, although he shares some insight into the matter. In the end, it can be said that the audience is the greatest determiner of whether a play can be considered a comedy or a tragedy -- the audience and the company. What was a tragedy can become a comedy in the eyes of the audience member who quite heatedly dislikes the character who meets an untimely death at the end of the play. And what was a comedy can become a tragedy at the hands of a company who emphasizes the uncertain ending or moral or point of the story, which may be a painful one.

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