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What are the various types of comedy in English literature?

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Just to add to the definitions of comedy from above, there are three other forms:

  1. Parody is also a form of comedy used in literature when an author imitates the characteristic style of an author or work for comic effect    
  2. Burlesque is a literary or dramatic work that ridicules a subject either by presenting a solemn subject in an undignified style or an inconsequential subject in a dignified style. (caricatures are in burlesque)
  3. Travesty is a grotesque imitation of a literary work.

Parody differs from burlesque by the depth of its technical penetration and travesty which treats dignified matters in a trivial manner.  Parody mercilessly exposes the tricks of manner and thoughts of its victim piece and, therefore, cannot be written without a thorough appreciation of the original work.  One classic example of parody is "The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope, who mocks epic poetry as Pope elevates a lock of air to the subjects of epic poetry such as the deeds of some hero. (e.g. "Beowulf)  In Shakespeare's "Hamlet," the players' scene is a parody of a works by Christopher Marlowe.

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There are two types of comedies: high and low.  High comedy has two types: comedy of ideas and comedy of manners.  Farce comedy is a combination of high and low comedy.  Low comedy is low comedy.

There are other variations of these.  Satire, for example, may or may not be comedy, depending on tone.  Horatian satire, a kind of parody, is more comical.  Juvenal satire is more bitter, full of attacks.  Tragicomedy, a.k.a. black comedy, is a humorous view of the dark side of human nature.

From my notes:

Comedy of Ideas (high comedy):

1. Characters argue about ideas like politics, religion, sex, marriage.

2. They use their wit, their clever language to mock their opponent in an argument.

3. This is a subtle way to satirize people and institutions like political parties, governments, churches, war, marriage.

Comedy of Manners (high comedy):

1. The plot focuses on amorous intrigues among the upper classes.

2. The dialogue focuses on witty language. Clever speech, insults and 'put-downs' are traded between characters.

3. Society is often made up of cliques that are exclusive with certain groups as the in-crowd, other groups ( the would-be-wits, desiring to be part of the witty crowd), and some( the witless) on the outside.

Farce(can be combination of high/low comedy):

1. The plot is full of coincidences, mistimings, mistaken identities.

2. Characters are puppets of fate—they are twins, born to the wrong class, unable to marry, too poor, too rich, have loss of identity because of birth or fate or accident, or are (sometimes) twins separated , unaware of their double..

Low Comedy:

1. Subjects of the humor consists of dirty jokes, dirty gestures, sex, and elmination.

2. The extremes of humor range from exaggeration to understatement with a focus on the physical like long noses, cross eyes, humped back and deformities.

3. The physical actions revolve around slapstick, pratfalls, loud noises, physical mishaps, collisions—all part of the humor of man encountering an uncooperative universe.

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