What is a comedy of manners? Describe its characteristics.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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A comedy of manners is a comedy which makes fun of (satires) the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of a specific social class. Popularized during the Restoration period, plays normally made fun of the upper class. While the comedy of manners poked fun at the lifestyles of those depicted, the playwright typically focused on things which actually happened (and were believed) within the social circles and classes.

Characteristics of the comedy of manners many times are sexually charged. Some of the setting may take place in bedrooms. Much of the language is either sexually explicit (bordering on grotesque) or sexually implicit (which relies on the audiences knowledge to imply).

As for love, many characters found monotony boring. Relationships were more likely to be those which involved adultery or multiple partnerships. Many times, temptation played a large role (given the importance of sexual tension between and within social classes).

The humor in the genre comes from the absurdity with which the characters thought themselves to be something they were not (the old thought themselves to be young, the ugly thought themselves to be beautiful).

The costuming in the plays were overly dramatic (even when adhering to the period). Bosoms were larger and protruded, the same with other body features. It seems that everything was accentuated to add to the sexual and humorous nature of the comedies.


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