Robertson Davies World Literature Analysis
In Stage Voices: Twelve Canadian Playwrights Talk About Their Lives and Work (1978), edited by Geraldine Anthony, Davies said that his work might be categorized ascomedy, in the broadest sense of the term. But I take it to include a great measure of romance, of pathos, of the rueful awareness that life is short in time and that what we understand of it is only a trifle of the whole. . . . The greater part of life is lived in the mode of comedy.
Davies’ comment applies to his novels quite as much as to his plays; they are comedies in the broadest sense of the term. His novels are witty and occasionally even slapstick, as when Professor Vambrace, in Tempest-Tost, attempts to eat grapes while declaiming one of Prospero’s speeches. In a somewhat more technical sense, Davies’ novels are comedies because they are about real human frailties and limitations. If tragedy can be described as the great brought low through the actions of their faults, then perhaps comedy can be defined as the ordinary muddling through while occasionally appearing ridiculous because of their faults. In Tempest-Tost, Hector Mackilwraith, a middle-aged teacher of mathematics, attempts to hang himself in the middle of a production of the The Tempest because he loves a young woman, Griselda, who he knows will never love him. Instead of being tragic, Hector’s suicide attempt is ridiculous: He is told off by the director for disrupting the play and...
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