Can there be any functions of unhappiness humor in children's comedy as in AS YOU LIKE IT by Shakespeare or stories like in CINDERELLA/SNOW WHITE?eNotes, your answers are very helpful, thank you to...

Can there be any functions of unhappiness humor in children's comedy as in AS YOU LIKE IT by Shakespeare or stories like in CINDERELLA/SNOW WHITE?

eNotes, your answers are very helpful, thank you to all. I'm on my way to complete my masterpiece. If you are able to present evidence of qoutes or lines of what I've mentioned that will be great. Thank you.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Post II

Further, in the movie version of Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs are very unhappy about having to wash and sit and eat with manners and this adds comedy that comes directly from their non-life threatening unhappiness (although they act like soap and water is life threatening). Aha! Therein might lie a clue to comedy in children's stories related to unhappiness: perhaps the best instances of comedic unhappiness are those in which the child protagonist believes something safe or neutral to be something terrible and awful, like the Seven Dwarfs and the soap and water. In these cases, the reader/audience knows what the character doesn't know, and we are free to laugh at how "silly" they are because we know that in the end the character will have an awakening while being perfectly safe and sound in the meantime. We know, in other words, that the character is not threatened in the least even though they believe they are threatened and are most unhappy about it.

One instance of comedy from unhappiness in As You Like It ties in with the epiphany we just had in the paragraph above. When Phebe falls for Rosalind in disguise and "Ganymede" does not return the affection, that is funny to us because we know that (in that era) Phebe can't love Ganymede because Ganymede is Rosalind and we know that in the end, Phebe will be glad Ganymede didn't return the affection! So we know what the character doesn't know, and we know that the character will soon realize what we know and that the character will at all times be safe and sound even though she is in tears of unhappiness at the moment. Contrast this to Silvius who doesn't have Phebe's love in return for his own and is unhappy about it: We are unhappy with him; we sympathize with him; we don't find anything comedic in his situation at all.

A situation in which the reader/audience knows more than the character (like the previous examples of the Seven Dwarfs and soap and water or Phebe and "Ganymede") is called dramatic irony. I suppose in a comedic context it would be distinguished as comedic dramatic irony.

Here are links to two reliable definitions of dramatic irony:
Encyclopedia Britannica

Bedford/St. Martin's Meyer Literature Site Glossary of Literary Terms

Transcript of Disney's 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Unable to locate the 1950 Walt Disney Cinderella script, but here are several Cinderella story versions, particularly Cinderella: Germany (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

P.S.: So glad to hear you are "on your way" to your "masterpiece"!

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

[Too long for one post.]

Post I

I am not an expert in this, but I will give you my best opinion based on my best analysis in the hopes that it may serve as a springboard for you.

Again, as mentioned elsewhere pertaining to the quote "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness" from Samuel Beckett's Theatre of the Absurd play Endgame, Beckett didn't mean it when he wrote that "nothing is funnier than unhappiness." He was making that statement (1) in an absurdist play in which everything is absurd, meaning disharmonious, out of harmony with reality (which can't be known anyway in an absurdist opinion); (2) as part of a satire poking fun at common ideas and platitudes; (3) as a proof the all communication breaks down into further disharmony.

So--it is true that comedy does build on the things in life that are (1) somewhat unhappy and/or (2) universally unhappy [see the previous post]. It is also true that once something becomes seriously unhappy, it becomes tragedy. With all this in mind, let's give it a go...

In Cinderella, in this linked version of the text, there is no indication in the words of the text that there was anything funny in Cinderella's unhappiness. However, in the Walt Disney movie version, there are some mild instances in which Cinderella's unhappiness is funny. For instance, in her unhappiness she befriends the mice and sews for them and dresses them up, which leads to some very amusing moments that would not have occurred if Cinderella had not been unhappy. Likewise, in the movie, she has some tiffs with the cat which belongs to the sisters and which makes her unhappy--in an annoyed sort of way--that give rise to some amusing moments.

Additionally, in the movie version, when Cinderella is bringing the mother and sisters their breakfast and they all commence to call her name at once and she is running up and down stairs as quickly as she can--and keeping a good sweet humor about it--this impossible situation produces humor. It is rather like Juliet trying to be in with the nurse and out on the balcony with Romeo both at the same time. In Snow White, her unhappiness leads her to clean up the seven dwarfs home, which has some humorous moments in it.

[Post II below (I hope).]

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