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I am looking for a definition of "the comedy of manners."I would like to know the...

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kooky1 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted December 24, 2010 at 8:16 AM via web

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I am looking for a definition of "the comedy of manners."

I would like to know the pioneers of this genre, as well as writers and their work.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 31, 2010 at 3:23 PM (Answer #1)

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The genre "comedy of manners" was introduced in the 1600s in England.

Dictionary.com defines "comedy of manners" as...

...a comedy satirizing the manners and customs of a social class, especially one dealing with the amorous intrigues of fashionable society.

The comedy of manners genre is believed to have its roots in the works of Ben Jonson (an English writer), and seventeenth-century French playwright, Molière.

(An example of a comedy of manners "predecessor" might be Moliere's play Tartuffe, a very funny production that depicts a scam artist [Tartuffe] being welcomed into a wealthy man's home; the entire family can see the con man for who he is, while the host (Orgon) is clueless. The plot moves along quickly, presenting ridiculous difficulties for the family to deal with, and a good deal of entertainment for the audience.)

Some of the writers who are considered experts at writing these satirical pieces of humor in the first generation of this literary movement are: George Etherege, William Wycherley and John Vanbrugh, among others.

Etherege is credited with launching this new genre with his works Love in a Tub and The Comical Revenge.

[William] Congreve is considered by many critics to have been the greatest wit of the dramatists writing in this vein.

The characters in these works had little depth: more often than not character types were used—generally:

the fool, the schemer, the hypocrite, the jealous husband...

Later, characters would have more depth, being seen as individuals rather than just "types."

While this form of comedy eventually made way for sentimental comedies, the form was reintroduced by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (who wrote The Rivals) and Oliver Goldsmith (author of She Stoops to Conquer), writers who were able to bring about a renewed interest in the genre.

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