Comedy – Concept, origin, types and examples

We explain what comedy is and what was the origin of this wonderful dramatic genre. Also, the types of comedy that exist and examples.

Comedies are characterized by evoking laughter and having a happy ending.

What is comedy?

Comedy is called one of the oldest dramatic genres, opposed in its theme to tragedy, that is, characterized by plots and narratives that evoke laughter and have a happy ending. As described by the Greek philosopher Aristotle in his Poetics (6th century BC), comedy consists of a representation of men worse than they really are, which allows viewers to make fun of them, even as powerful figures in real life.

The ancient Greeks cultivated it as one of the two highest forms of drama, associating it with the bucolic and pastoral muse named Thalía, who along with Melpómene (muse of tragedy) were the inspirers of the theater. Since then, these two arts have been represented by two masks: one smiling and the other tearful, associating them with two perspectives on life: the optimistic and the pessimistic.

Comedy, as opposed to tragedy, does not deal with exalting or solemnly approaching his charactersInstead, he chooses them from the common people and subjects them not to a fatal fate, but to the rigors of chance. Hence, in many types of comedy (such as tangled comedy), characters get out of awkward or embarrassing situations by sheer chance.

However, that absence of a destiny traced by the gods in the comedy also embodies an important notion of human freedom, since everyone can pursue their own future at will in their works, which opens the way for nonsense, coincidence, surprise, rhythm changes and other frequent resources in the narrative structure of the genre.

Origin of comedy

Charles Chaplin
Charles Chaplin is a legendary character in comic cinema.

Comedy, like tragedy, has its origin as a genus in Ancient Greece (1200 – 146 BC), as an artistic evolution of the early songs of honor to Dionysus, derived from the dithyramb, a Greek composition associated with satire and mime. The splendor of Greek comedy took place with Aristophanes (444-385 BC), whose heritage was passed down to Roman culture by the Greek playwright Menander in the fourth century.

From there it would pass to medieval European culture, where it would form an important part of popular traditions, not at all similar to the religious and censored art of the time, being rather grotesque and very in contact with the body. There, later comic artistic phenomena such as the Commedia dell’Arte or the Spanish Golden Age theater (Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca, mainly).

The comedy it would later be an important genre of the contemporary artistic imaginary, especially in the nineteenth-century theater and the beginnings of cinema, with legendary characters such as Charles Chaplin’s Charlot or Mario Moreno’s Cantinflas.

Types of comedy

Musical comedy
In musical comedy the characters sing and dance in addition to acting.

There are various classifications of comedy, depending on the type of plot and characters it shows. Some examples are:

  • Old comedy. The work of the great comedians of antiquity, such as Aristophanes, Cratés or Cratinos, inventors of the genre, is thus known.
  • Comedy of entanglements. Also called “situation”, it consists of the random and absurd mixture of two or more stories that converge unintentionally and give rise to misunderstandings.
  • Physical comedy. English call slapstick, is the comedy with an important physical or acting component, that is, in which the actors suffer physical accidents: falls, blows, etc.
  • Pastoral or pastoral comedy. Dedicated to the bucolic life in the field, with loves between shepherds or peasants.
  • Satirical comedy. The one that ridicules certain institutions or individuals, highlighting their defects and making fun of the powerful.
  • Magic comedy. Also known as apparatus comedy, it has the presence of all kinds of magical beings and animals that require special situations and effects (tramoya).
  • Musical comedy. Where the characters not only act, but sing and dance.

Examples of comedy

Some of the most recognized comedies are:

  • Lysistrata, Clouds and The Frogs of Aristophanes.
  • The imaginary patient of Molière.
  • Pot of Plautus.
  • The condemned as distrustful and The Trickster of Seville by Tirso de Molina.
  • The importance of being called Ernesto by Oscar Wilde.
  • The great Dictator by Charles Chaplin.
  • The little father, The sweeper, There is the detail by Mario Moreno “Cantinflas”.