Monday, July 17, 2006

Comedy vs. Tragedy

Comedies and tragedies share many of the same social ends, but the tone of the two kinds of works is very distinct.

Certain parallels can be drawn between William Shakespeare's plays, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and "Romeo and Juliet". These parallels concern themes and prototypical Shakespearian character types. Both plays have a distinct pair of ‘lovers', Hermia and Lysander, and Romeo and Juliet, respectively. Both plays could have also easily been tragedy or comedy with a few simple changes. A tragic play is a play in which one or more characters is has a moral flaw that leads to his/her downfall. A comedic play has at least one humorous character, and a successful or happy ending. Comparing these two plays is useful to find how Shakespeare uses similar character types in a variety of plays, and the versatility of the themes which he uses.

Prohibited love, romance, controlling families, both plays have it all. With a few simple modifications, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" could have been a tragedy, and "Romeo and Juliet" could have been a comedy. Shakespeare however, uses many of the same character types, young, prudent, rebellous lovers, and controling family members, in both comedies and tragedies. The end results are character molds, along with theme molds that can be easily translated into almost any plot, in any play.


So why do people think that tragedies are stronger? If you were a movie director and had a story of a certain plot, would you adjust it to make it comedic or tragic? And why?

I've been told by most of the people I asked that they would, of course, make the movie a tragedy if they had wanted a certain message to reach their audience. This strikes me as strange. Don't they both tackle emotions on the same level? Why do certain movies do better when they're tragic? The finest example of that is Titanic.
Perhaps it has to do with the history of the topic. Aristotle, a Greek historian, gave rules to both comedy and tragedy.

Tragedy = Poetics
Comedy = Lost Treatise

Recent critics see a strong social pattern to tragedies.

While debating with someone over this topic I was asked to name one comedic movie which held a strong moral. A few movies came into mind, but it seems like most of the good stories are made tragic in order to be remembered. Why not make them comedies? Why not be happy and remember rather than sad? When you're laughing you feel light headed and don't think of what you're doing and quickly forget about it. When you're sad, though, you think deeply. Is this why the greatest thinkers were depressed? Does intellegence accompany sorrow?
I feel like I'm debating with myself here. I type as I think. I might be hanging on the fence here, but both comedies as well as tragedies hold extremely strong emotions. The fact that a tragedy is portrayed as the stronger emotion, though, cannot be denied. Perhaps a change is needed...


Dots.. said...

: )

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