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What is comedy?

Comedy is a genre that uses humor to elicit amusement or laughter from readers or audiences.

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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

Comedy is a genre that uses humor to elicit amusement from readers or laughter from audiences. Comedy is often considered the opposite of tragedy, as comedic works are designed to provoke positive emotions from readers or audiences, and the stories often resolve happily. However, comedy is not necessarily lighthearted; works of black comedy often deal with serious or dark topics. 

Comedy derives from the Greek word kōmōidia, a form of kōmōidos, meaning "comic poet." The word is formed by combining kōmos ("revel") and aidos ("singer"). 

In literature, one common type of comedy is comedy of humors, which features protagonists with strong personality traits that dominate the disposition and their lives.

Another common type is comedy of manners, a comedic form that satirizes current social norms, particularly the behaviors of the upper classes. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a comedy of manners. Wilde uses wit, wordplay, and clever dialogue to highlight the superficiality, hypocrisy, and absurdity of the upper class in Victorian society:

Algernon: My dear fellow, the truth isn't quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman! Jack: The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she is pretty, and to someone else if she is plain.

In this exchange between Algernon and Jack, the characters engage in witty banter while discussing their attitudes toward courtship and relationships. The quote highlights the satirical nature of the play, as Wilde humorously exposes the shallow values and deceptive practices of the upper class in matters of love and romance.

Farce and satire are other literary forms that use elements of comedy to achieve their intended effects. 

see: comic reliefblack comedysatirefarcetragedy 

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Comic Relief