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William Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing is classified as a romantic comedy, but a somewhat atypical one, in that its setting is urban, and at times the travails of the characters nearly cross the boundary to tragedy.
The earliest distinction we have between comedy and tragedy as dramatic genres is Aristotle's Poetics, a work the very much influenced the evolution of Renaissance drama. Aristotle defines comedy as follows:
Comedy is, as we have said, an imitation of characters of a lower type- not, however, in the full sense of the word bad, the ludicrous being merely a subdivision of the ugly. It consists in some defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive. To take an obvious example, the comic mask is ugly and distorted, but does not imply pain.
As applied to Shakespeare, this means that it often includes rustics, or characters not of the highest class of nobles, usually engaged in the business of everyday life rather than great heroic actions, and often set in a pastoral environment. It contains elements which are ludicrous, often with the humor lying in the difference between ideals or appearances and reality.
Where satiric and romantic comedy diverge is not just that romantic comedy usually has a plot revolving around the romantic travails of young lovers, and satire is more varied, but that satire rather than just making fun of incongruities, condemns them. Romantic comedy is pure fun, and while we laugh, for example, at the verbal wit of Beatrice and Benedick, and the efforts of their friends to bring about their marriage, the laughter is not a form of condemnation. We both enjoy their verbal play, consider them a well-matched pair, look forward to things working out well for them, and both wish for and expect a happy (and entertaining) marriage for the couple. Satire is much darker, using humor to critique individuals or societies, such as Swift's "A Modest Proposal", which, despite its surface humor, is a scathing attack on the English government's response to Irish poverty. While "Much Ado About Nothing" lacks satiric elements, sometimes the emotional tone in the Hero-Claudio plot is darker than usual in Shakespeare's earlier comedies.
Much Ado About Nothing has been stated as a romantic comedy. A romantic comedy is a movie or play that deals with love in a light hearted way, and Much Ado About Nothing does that. However, it differs from Shakespeare's other romantic comedies. In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare also pokes fun at the conventions of courting and romantic love that were popular during that time.
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