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What is farce?

A farce is a humorous play in which traditional character development is forsaken in favor of a complicated and unrealistic plot, exaggerated or stock character personalities, and slapstick humor.

Farce

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Last Updated on October 14, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 254

A farce is a humorous play in which traditional character development is forsaken in favor of a complicated and unrealistic plot, exaggerated or stock character personalities, and slapstick humor. Unlike plays that attempt to create realistic situations and characters, farces derive humor from exaggeration, absurdity, and surprise.

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The term farce originated from the Latin term farcire, meaning “to stuff.” Farce first entered the English language from Old French as a culinary term, meaning “forcemeat” or “stuffing.” The term took on its modern meaning in the 16th century, when this style of comedy entered England from France.

Farcical plays can be found as early as ancient Greece, where the playwright Aristophanes included stock characters in his comedic plays. In 15th-century France, the term was applied to entertainment with indecent content, acrobatics, and clowning. Initially, these performances were inserted (or “stuffed”) into religious plays, earning the label “farce.” Gradually, farce expanded from a kind of interlude to a full-fledged theatrical genre, which gained popularity throughout Europe. Farce remains a popular form to this day.

Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest is a work of farce. The plot revolves around a pair of men, each of whom sometimes goes by the name of Ernest. They become tangled in a web of deception, courtship, and absurd social situations. The title itself is a pun on the principle of earnestness, which is undermined by the duplicitousness of the two men who assume fictional personae as “Ernest.”

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see: satire, (the) absurd, characterization, comedy, drama, black comedy, irony

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Latest answer posted July 8, 2013, 7:10 pm (UTC)

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